In 1984, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was enacted into law. The purpose of this act was to promote career and technical education (CTE) programs through federal funding. When this law was originally passed, a funded mandate was attached to the act, ensuring that 3% of these funds were to be spent towards stimulating gender equity in the workplace.
Through the years of the act’s reauthorizations and modifications, it’s hand in promoting gender equity has diminished significantly. The loss of momentum first began during a 1998 reauthorization in which the aforementioned federal mandate was stripped from the act. This marked the backwards trajectory of the federal government’s efforts in fighting for gender equity in the workplace. States were now granted the ability to decide whether or not they were willing to make efforts to improve gender equity without federal support. The poorly calculated decision to remove the mandate led to a loss in both the number and size of programs that aided women in entering typically male-dominated careers, according to a report conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).
The Carl D. Perkins Act has been modified and reauthorized on numerous occasions with little to no mention of how to improve women’s access to male dominated careers. The latest reauthorization, signed into law by former President Donald Trump, occurred in 2018, and the act is now known as the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.” Presently, the only aspects of the act that address gender equity are in the requirement that states report the performance of CTE students based on gender, and a vague remark that declares a state must prepare a plan on how to address any issues found in said report. How these plans will be drafted and put into effect is unclear, as states no longer receive a set allocation of federal funds to develop solutions.
The Issue on the Table
Once again, the 2018 reauthorization failed to meet the standards set over three decades prior. This is an error that can no longer be afforded. Claus von Zaustrow, principal at the Education Commission of the States, regrettably reported “The future might not be much brighter: Females are scarce among high school CTE students concentrating in well-paying fields, such as information technology (33 percent), science (27 percent), and manufacturing (19 percent).”
There should be no lack in understanding the magnitude of this issue. Requiring states to report gender-based performance disparities without taking steps to formulate effective solutions is fruitless and a superficial display of effort. It is crucial that women receive support in gaining access to attain higher-paying CTE positions.
How You Can Get Involved
The next reauthorization of the act will be held in 2024. This time, true action must be taken. At a minimum, this reauthorization should reinstate the prior mandate that required states to allocate 3% of federal funds to promoting gender equity in the workplace. This goal can be accomplished with your support, and there are many ways in which you can get involved.
NAPE’s Program Improvement Process for Equity
The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity is currently the nation’s leading organization in achieving access, equity, and diversity in education. Their Education Foundation’s Program Improvement Process for Equity is a five-module research-based program which works towards increasing the enrollment of underrepresented girls in nontraditional CTE careers. To learn more about this program, please visit their website at napequity.org and consider becoming a member of their organization.
The next Congressional election will be held on November 8, 2022. This is a critical election for the 2024 reauthorization of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act, as you have the power to decide who will be voting for its modifications. Your participation in this election is crucial, as is who you vote for.
Write to Your Representatives
Take a few minutes to write a letter, send an email, or make a phone call to your representatives regarding the reauthorization of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act. Urge them to re-implement the previous federal mandate, and ask them to consider what other steps they will take to promote gender equity in the workplace.
Show Your Support
If you are able, please make a donation to our Dream Programs. Your support will go a long way in improving women’s access to education and dismantling the obstacles that women and girls face based exclusively on their gender. Please consider writing a message to motivate and show support to girls across the globe under our “Take Action” segment of our website!
Caleigh Trauger is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Public and Professional Writing and minoring in Public Service. She is committed to helping to increase economic and educational opportunities for women across the globe.