Washington, DC—



today shows that women and girls are still sorely underrepresented in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that prepare students for careers in high-paying occupations in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the skilled trades, and other occupations traditionally done by men. Yet the research also shows that some states are much better at addressing women and girls underrepresentation than others. Two coalitions for women’s education and job training point to the positive impact of performance measures under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act on women’s and girls’ access to CTE programs that lead to better paying and higher-skilled jobs, and call for its reauthorization and strengthening.

Women and girls make up fewer than one in four students in STEM CTE programs, fewer than one in six students in manufacturing and architecture- and construction-related CTE programs, and fewer than one in ten students in transportation, distribution, and logistics CTE programs.

Yet, women and girls comprise more than 80 percent of students at the postsecondary level enrolled in CTE programs in “Human Services,” which prepare them for lower-paying positions such as child care workers and hairdressers.  The median hourly earnings of hairdressers are $10.85. In comparison,the median earnings of automotive body and related repairers are $18.36.

“This Women’s History Month, and forty years after Title IX required equal access to education, it’s time to turn our attention to an area where progress truly has been minimal,” said Fatima Goss Graves, of the

National Women’s Law Center

and vice-chair of the

National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education

(NCWGE).  “Young women continue to comprise just a small portion of students in career and technical education programs that are crucial pathways to middle class jobs.  It’s imperative that young women have the same access to CTE programs that lead to high wage and high skill occupations—their economic security depends on it.”

The under-representation of women and girls in programs leading to higher paid careers is not uniform across the United States, however. According to analysis of performance data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, seven states had secondary school enrolment rates for girls in nontraditional programs that were at least 10 percentage points higher than the national average of 28 percent; ten states had post secondary completion rates for women in nontraditional programs that were at least 10 percentage points higher than the national average of 27 percent. In transportation, distribution, and logistics CTE programs, the field with the lowest share of women and girls, enrolment rates in secondary schools in four states were at least twice the national rate.

“It is important that training for higher-paying occupations includes women and girls, and that girls are introduced to nontraditional careers, particularly in STEM fields, at a young age,” said Barbara Gault, Vice President and Executive Director of the

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

, a member organization of the NCWGE. “To secure strong futures for girls we need to address obstacles to high-paying careers, such as sexual harassment in the classroom or unintentional bias in mentoring or advising.”

The Perkins Act provides an opportunity to promote more gender equity in training programs and includes accountability measures for states. “Many state and local CTE directors count the nontraditional accountability measure and the accompanying provisions in the Perkins Act among the key reasons for their state’s success in improving students’ participation in and completion of nontraditional CTE programs,”said Mimi Lufkin, Chief Executive Officer of the

National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity


The CTE Task Force of the


and the National Coalition on Women, Jobs and Job Training (NCWJJT) make several recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the Perkins Act when up for reauthorization in the near future, including:

  • Require the U.S. Department of Education to identify and build on the success of high-performing states.

  • Provide specific funding to states for services that prepare students for nontraditional fields to help close equity gaps.

  • Provide challenge grants to states to identify and address the main barriers to students’ participation in CTE programs that are nontraditional for their gender.

  • Correct inconsistencies in data reporting by requiring states to use clear and consistent definitions when reporting data.

“Our experience teaches that affirmative programming is necessary to ensure women’s access to these higher paying, nontraditional occupations,” said Susan Rees, Director of Policy at

Wider Opportunities for Women

and convener of the NCWJJT and NCGWE CTE Task Force that produced the research. “The nontraditional performance measures in the Perkins Act focus states on the need for tackling gender inequality in routes to high paying careers; they need to be maintained and strengthened when the Perkins Act is reauthorized.”

Segregation in training programs has repercussions on women’s earnings throughout their lifetimes and is a significant contributor to the persistent wage gap. According to IWPR, the typical woman now makes 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

The findings in the


are based on a new analysis by NCWGE and NCWJJT of state-by-state reports on student enrollment and course completion in secondary and postsecondary career and technical education that were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.


This report was prepared as a summary of an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Women’s Law Center, and Wider Opportunities for Women, under the auspices of the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education and the National Coalition on Women, Jobs and Job Training.