The 2006 Perkins Act defines nontraditional fields as follows:
“The term nontraditional fields means occupations or fields of work, including careers in computer science, technology, and other current and emerging high skill occupations, for which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25% of the individuals employed in each such occupation of field of work.”
Hawai‘i is required by federal law to establish numerical enrollment and completion goals for nontraditional students in Career and Technical Education programs of study. Each year our state reports on the progress of meeting these goals to the to the U.S. Office of Education.
Historically, occupations have been highly segregated by gender, with women concentrated in only a few occupational areas.
Efforts to improve access and opportunities are important because of increasing reliance on women’s wages for the support of children and families. Women’s low earnings have a direct impact on the number of children living in poverty. Women continue to be over-represented in the lowest paid, lowest opportunity jobs in the economy. These patterns contribute significantly to women’s generally low wages and to the wage disparity between males and females. Seventy percent of women still earn $25,000 or less a year, and over 90% of single parent families are headed by a female wage earner. Women and men with specialized technical training can expect to earn half a million dollars more in their lifetime than someone who is working at a low-skill, minimum- wage job.
All students should be encouraged to explore career options based on their abilities and interests, not gender. Gender-based obstacles appear in the early stages of formal instruction. Barriers to equal educational opportunity for girls and women in science, math and technology-related areas prevent Hawai‘i from utilizing its full pool of talent for the high tech needs of employers. Such obstacles prevent girls and women from accessing the high wage opportunities available in technical fields.
To adequately prepare all students to make educated choices, efforts must be made at the beginning of the educational process to present bias-free information to students and eliminate ethnic and gender-biased attitudes and behaviors. Gender equity programs at the secondary and post secondary levels of education are necessary to reach students who have already received years of traditional conditioning and subtle messages about gender roles that may limit occupational choices.
Parents, teachers, and counselors play a crucial role in the decisions young people make. This influence extends to career choices for mid-career adults returning to school. Their understanding of gender equity issues is fundamental to ensuring equitable educational environments.
The Office of the State Director for Career and Technical Education provides resources, technical assistance, and professional development to address these issues and help Hawai‘i meet the nontraditional core indicators required by the 2006 Perkins Act.