Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and Technology Education fields of work and study. McCarthy & Berger used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses. The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions, focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they came to the decision to pursue a technology education/STEM career path.  A third combined interview concluded the interview process which allowed for the interviewees to discuss their thoughts and findings together. The interviewees were also tasked with keeping a journal over 14 days which documented influences and important transition points that may have led them to their career in technology education.

Pixabay, 2019

McCarthy and Berger (2008) concluded, based of the information provided by those interviewed, that the following should be done to encourage an increase in the growth rate of female representation in technology education and the STEM fields:

  • provide families and schools with information on the learning needs of girls
  • provide education for men and boys outlining the importance of including women and girls in STEM/tech ed.
  • Stress importance of male role models and encouraging female growth within STEM/Tech ed
  • Create opportunities for STEM to be used in the elementary school setting. Prepare teachers so that they are comfortable and confident with the subject matter and willing to share it with all students equally
  • Provide young girls, especially those without a male role model in their lives, with male modeling and support
  • Encourage more males to teach lower grades to balance the predominantly female teacher representation of lower grades.

 

Personal & Professional Connection:

For just over a decade I worked as a full-time journeyman carpenter.  I loved the work, but the job site can be a hot bed of sexism, among other things, like bigotry and racism. It is my belief that the extremely toxic culture on the work-site is largely one of the reasons many women do not feel comfortable there. As I reached my late twenties, I decided that I had had enough and that I wanted to help institute a change in the toxic work-site culture. I discovered the people I was working with were highly resistant to changing and felt very set in their ways. I concluded that change would need to come from a new generation. It was then I decided to pursue a career in education. There are, of course, other reasons for my career change but this one was very important to me and it is what drew me to the McCarthy and Berger’s article.

 

Interest, Problem, Purpose, Questions:

My experiences on the construction site have made me come to believe that “site culture” is far behind the times in regard to workplace equality/equity.  All too often there is a bigot, racist, and/or sexist, or group there of, who harass anyone who is “other” until they either quit or become one of them. It is because of this I became a teacher. My goals as an educator are to help change, not only attitudes towards women, but also for everyone on the job site, including LGBTQIA folks and people of all races, class, ability, religion, sex, and gender.

It is my predominant goal to help encourage girls/women to pursue a career in Technology Education, the STEM field, or Trades. I also wish to encourage others to let go of the toxic norms of yesterday which do not accurately reflect a woman’s value or ability. There are many ways I attempt to address this within my classroom. This could be as mundane as common daily interactions with students but can lead to full on lessons about the potential realities of the work site and respect for others. Daily, I endeavour to portray myself as welcoming and respectful to all my students. It is important that they feel comfortable with me, the other students, and the machinery they will be using. Everyone has just as much right to be there as anyone else. Everyone has the same right to design, make, and learn.

My inquiry into encouraging girls/women to pursue technology education, STEM, or trades naturally could expand to encouraging people of different sex, gender, race, class, religion, and/or ability to follow their passion for one of those disciplines. Technology Education, STEM, and trades, I believe, would be far better off with the addition of other points of view and ways of knowing.  Furthermore, it would help meet the growing need for people in those disciplines.

 

Collected Resources:

https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/men-women-and-tools

There has been several studies into women in STEM , tech ed, and trades.  Below are some resources I have collected and how they add to the discussion.  I have also added other resources which expand on my research for equity in my classroom.

  1. Men & Women and Tools by Marcia Braundy – Book & Video

This book dives deep into the toxic culture that can be found on the trades site and in technology education.  Using their experience and scholarly research, Braundy weaves a rich argument for change. Further, Braundy also created a drama which demonstrates the kinds of harassment and treatment women can experience on the work site.

 

  1. Toward Inclusive STEM Classrooms: What Personal Role Do Faculty Play?
    By Tess Killpack & Laverne Melon – Academic Journal

This paper sets out guidelines to challenge educators to overcome the cultural and implicit biases that are often held for STEM courses.  The authors provide a guide for educators to help assist in the adaption of syllabi, material, and approaches.

  1. Gender, interest, and prior experience shape opportunities to learn programming in robotics competitions by Witherspoon, Schunn, Higashi, & Baehr

This article examines girls’ interest in robotics and programming from elementary to high school.  The research highlights a drop off in female interest as they get older and concludes on potential ways to address that loss of interest.

  1. Googles Ideological Echo Chamber by James Damore – memorandum

This is a memo written by a google employee, James Damore, outlining why they do not believe that women will ever have equal representation to men in the STEM field.  I felt it was important to include this in my readings as it gives a very different interpretation that stands counter to my beliefs and many of the other articles collected.

  1. Considerations From Places Where Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing Circulate Together: STEM as Artifact of Teaching and Learning By Borden, L. L., & Wiseman, D. – Academic Journal

This article challenges the Western assumptions and philosophies of teaching and learning STEM and presents STEM using Indigenous ways of knowing.

  1. Participation and achievement in technology education: the impact of school location and socioeconomic status on senior secondary technology studies By Steve Murphy – Academic Journal

Murphy explores the limitations put on STEM courses at rural schools caused by school location and socio-economic status.