Congressional Committee Considers Gender Equity in Vocational Education

At a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, members of the Subcommittee on Education Reform considered key provisions on gender equity in the reauthorization of the Perkins Vocational and Technical Act urged by advocates for gender equity in education. The act contributes almost $1.4 billion annually to vocational education and related activities. The Bush Administration’s plan, released in May, stripped the Act of all of its gender equality provisions, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The House version of the bill includes some, but not all, of the gender equity provisions urged by advocates for gender equity in education. The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) has recommended that specific provisions be included in the bill for the education of displaced homemakers, victims of domestic violence, young women, and single parents of families who are all seeking to enter the workforce. They have suggested that local funds ought to be required to be put toward programs offering services to these special populations, including day care, transportation, career counseling, and life skills development. Programs that helped single parents and displaced homemakers to “attain marketable skills for high-wage, high-skill occupations leading to self-sufficiency” were once mandated, Mimi Lufkin, executive director of NAPE, said in her Congressional testimony. When these programs were stripped from the Perkins Act in 1998, 71 percent of schools said that their ability to help these special populations decreased. A study by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) reveals that women are generally encouraged to enter low-paying jobs such as cosmetology, health care, and child care while men overwhelmingly dominate high-wage, high-tech jobs, becoming electricians, welders, and carpenters. Previous versions of the Perkins Act mandated and funded State Sex Equity Coordinators who encouraged women and men to pursue non-traditional occupations (NTOs) in fields that have typically been dominated by the opposite gender. Sex Equity Coordinators, described as “crucial elements in program success” by the Network of Women in Further Education, became optional in the 1998 version of the Perkins Act. Additionally, while Career and Technical Education programs were once evaluated on the basis of their success in bringing more women and men into non-traditional occupations, the latest House version of the Perkins Act may eliminate this performance indicator at the secondary school level, a move that Lufkin calls “a serious mistake.” DONATE to the Feminist Majority Foundation and support our new Education Equity Program


Testimony of Mimi Lufkin (H.R. 4496) 6/15/04; Office of Vocational and Technical Education Program Memorandum 5/27/99; NWLC Info-Exchange 5/14/04; Network of Women in Further Education 1999; NCWGE Study 10/01

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