What the Literature Says*
Students who experience a school climate that is supportive of nontraditional occupations and gender equity are more likely to participate in nontraditional occupations.
School climate can create barriers to nontraditional careers. School-based barriers such as biased counseling, the provision of incomplete information to students on the consequences of their career training choices, or the sexual harassment of students who enroll in nontraditional classes lead to students opting for traditional careers and against nontraditional careers. Eighty-seven percent of female CTE students and 85 percent of male CTE students select the traditional choice. A person’s immersion in a culture that strongly prescribes gender roles has a lasting impact. Curran and Renzetti (2003) found that the lack of representation of girls in nontraditional courses could not be attributed to less interest or participation, but to problematic treatment by teachers based on gender, sexual harassment, and retaliation by peers.
School and classroom climate can also have a positive influence. A survey of more than 900 high school and middle school students indicated that teacher expectations of success were the top perceived supports for women in STEM careers. Respondents to a survey of 1000 female IT professionals named access to a computer at school as one of the most common IT-related experiences.