AC tackles gender equality issue within specific fields

Graphics by Danie Clawson | The Ranger

April 19, 2012

By Brooke Self |Ranger Reporter

THE TERM “gender equity” can be defined in numerous ways, but every definition has one thing in common: they all, in one way or another, have something to do with equality of the sexes.

It once was a significant issue in America. Women were meant to stay home with the children, doing housework, and men were destined to work outside the home for most of their lives. In modern times, has the imbalance in male-female ratios in the workforce leveled out?

According to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall male-female ratio in the workforce nationwide is fairly balanced. Forty-seven percent of all employees in the United States are women, according to a report released last month.

While the overall employment ratios are almost balanced, some fields have been socially classified as pink-collar, or female-dominated, and other professions are considered to be “men’s work.”

Statistics from the Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations in the U.S. and Canada Catalyst released earlier this year show that only 32 percent of physicians and surgeons and 6 percent of mechanical engineers are female. On the other hand, women make up for 86 percent of all paralegals and legal assistants, 95 percent of all dietitians and 91.1 percent of all registered nurses.

Other female-dominated fields include secretaries and administrative assistants, childcare workers, receptionists and information clerks, teacher assistants and bookkeepers, accounting and auditing clerks. Top male-dominated fields include brick/stone masons, logging workers, tool and die makers, structural iron and steel workers and crane and tower operators. According to statistics, more than 98 percent of workers in each of those fields are male.

Because of those numbers, Amarillo College’s Susie Wheeler is in her third year of working on securing Perkins grants for the school. Perkins grants are federal funds provided by the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006 for the advancement of career and technical education, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“We are focusing on getting more males into careers like paralegal or nursing and more females into more technical or mechanical types of careers,” Wheeler said.

The number of male students attending college for degrees in female-dominated fields such as nursing and paralegal studies always has been low. In May, Ben Staton will become the first male to graduate from AC’s 13-year-old paralegal studies program.

“I was really glad when I heard about Ben,” Wheeler said. “It’s like he stepped out there and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do this,’ and we need more males to do the same.”

“In 2010, the State Bar of Texas did a survey in the paralegal division that showed that 92.5 percent of paralegals in Texas are females. Only 6.5 percent are males,” said Bruce Moseley, paralegal studies program coordinator.

Moseley said he thinks the reason for low male participation in the paralegal field is due to the relation between paralegals and secretaries. He said many people see those jobs as the same thing and in America, there are not many male secretaries.

“I don’t think I’ve ever known of any male secretaries,” Moseley said. “The line between paralegal and secretary is blurred.”

While the percentage of male students in those types of courses is low, the same is true for the number of female students going for the degrees that are seemingly more male-oriented.

Automotive, diesel mechanics and welding are just a few of the degrees that are significantly low in female enrollment. Such classes are offered on the East Campus.

“We don’t want women thinking they can’t do these types of things just because it seems somewhat socially unacceptable,” Wheeler said.

She said efforts constantly are being made with counselors, advisers and recruiters to encourage women to go for jobs that sometimes are thought of as being “manly” if it is something that interests them.

Wheeler said there are many opportunities for women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Wheeler said a lot of people are uninformed about Perkins data, so she is making an effort to educate the AC community, especially advisers, because they can influence what degrees students will consider.

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