STEM and Skills Opinion
Dusty Fisher, Editor
As an “old girl” I am not surprised by headlines that go something like “women still find it difficult to enter into tech schools, vocational training”, or essentially find their way into these skilled careers. I’ve talked to unions, now educating their own apprentices, about how they recruit new members, and why I’m not seeing more women in the room when I speak to the newest union members. But, it’s repeated over and over "women are not capable"; electricians, HVAC, sheet metal, automotive, carpenters; the trades. And sadly, women are still seen as robbing a man the opportunity to provide for his family; the 50s mentality clings like cigar smoke allowing only the most persistent women into “the trades”.
If we flip this and ask what careers accept women today, hundreds of answers come back: education, healthcare, finance, services are frequent umbrellas for a myriad of welcoming roles, both leadership and supporting. I myself walked through an open door from architecture to technology. My high school counselor didn’t even realize that electrical engineering, or any other form of engineering, was part of architecture. She saw my career as combining colors and choosing fabrics, hardware choices would be hinges, handles, and knobs. She never envisioned me on a job site, dealing with engineers, contractors, wearing a hard hat, or at the mediation table defending a civil engineer’s design, incorrectly executed by the General Contractor.
Today I look for counselors in rooms filled with district teachers and administrators, they are not there, and I don’t know why. But one thing is clear, "career counseling" is up to parents. Our teachers, mentors, and counselors have too many students and too little time to impact the life decisions of most students. We all have a critical role as influencers; speak with a kid today, change the conversation, and whenever possible, include the parents.
STEM + Families
White Paper - 2016
Finally, the National PTA, along with its partners, Bayer and Mathasium have issued a new STEM report which we hope will reach parents, grandparents, foster parents, and any concerned adult. To quote the report: "The gap in the STEM pipeline is not a new problem. But intentionally engaging families is a new solution". Their approach and recommendations are sound, we hope this makes a significant impact.