The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Adult, Career, and Technical Education have released a letter saying that all students, regardless of their sex, must have equal access to the full range of career and technical programs offered. The letter is part of the White House's United State of Women Summit.
"As the father of two daughters, I want my girls – and all young women in this country – to have access to the careers of their dreams, no matter the path," said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "Career and technical education is not just about preparing some students for successful lives and careers, it's about giving all students the tools to succeed."
The letter makes clear that the Carl D. Perkins Career and technical Education Act requires states to meet their targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are nontraditional for their sex. Disparities in expertise and employment persist in certain fields.
There are legal obligations under civil rights laws that the OCR enforces to ensure equitable access to career and technical programs. While the Department makes clear that it will take the necessary steps to enforce these laws, it encourages schools and institutions to integrate various fields on their own. The letter reiterates that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities that receive federal assistance.
"We anticipate that this guidance will improve equitable access, participation, completion and post-program outcomes in CTE by discouraging discriminatory practices and encouraging school communities to take proactive steps to expand participation of students in nontraditional fields, and thus expand both access to and success in high-growth fields for both men and women," said Johan E. Uvin, acting assistant secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education. "While this DCL focuses primarily on gender, it reminds us that other considerations such as race, ethnicity, English language status, and disability are important characteristics in examining CTE access, participation, completion and outcomes."
Additionally, the Department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education is in the process of developing a toolkit to highlight resources and strategies that will support state and local education agencies, academic staff, school administrators, and counselors to develop equitable and high-quality career and technical programs.
The letter spotlights President Obama's National Equal Pay Task Force as a significant measure in helping reduce workplace inequality. The task force has taken on the issue of gender pay gaps, and it has worked to undo barriers that exclude women from traditionally male-dominated occupations.
The Obama administration is convening The United States of Women Summit, which will cover key gender equality issues, including educational opportunities and economic empowerment for women and girls. It will provide a platform for those individuals who have been involved in career and technical programs to share their experiences.
For interested readers, the full letter is available online.