BTVI interim president: Disservice done to children when ‘pushed into traditional career fields’ by parents and teachers

A disservice is being done to children when they are “pushed into traditional career fields” by parents and teachers, according to Dr. Linda A. Davis, Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) interim president.

Davis was a panel member at the 13th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting recently held at Atlantis Resort focusing on empowering women for a sustainable future.

Davis said when the topic of women in non-traditional fields is addressed, it would be remiss not to review the reason it has become a discussion in the first place.

“We should not stick our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge that what is known as gendered socialization takes root at a young age,” said the BTVI interim president. “It often shapes one’s beliefs and career choices. Both sexes are pushed into traditional career fields, often by parents and teachers who are major influences of children. What a disservice done to these young minds when limits are placed on career choices based on gender expectations – expectations that a girl is not supposed to aspire to be an auto technician, an electrician or a contractor, while a boy is frowned upon if he desires to be a fashion designer, esthetician or nurse,” she said.

“We must be a part of the change of the age-old, harmful narrative of only men doing certain jobs and only women doing certain jobs. We must be disrupters of this narrative. Still, ultimately, sustainable development can only be achieved where there is equitable access for all groups of men and women at all levels of education. This is the only approach that will truly affect equity in the labor market.”

Davis emphasized that gender equity, rather than gender equality considerations are more important in policy discussions.

“The gender gap in technical vocational education and training (TVET) continues to cause an imbalance in the actual supply of both sexes for various trades. It is imperative that in career planning, people are allowed and indeed encouraged to follow their interests. Career planning, after all, must never be about gender stereotyping. We need classrooms that work for women. We need workplaces that work for women. We need a society that fully works for women,” said Davis.

BTVI has seen first-hand the disparity of women in non-traditional fields. Although enrolment rates of men and women at BTVI indicate that there has been a disparity in enrolment in favor of men, the rates of enrolment for women are gradually increasing. To date, 59 percent of the population at BTVI is female. Davis acknowledged though that there are still significant gaps in female students’ enrolment in the non-traditional technical programs.

In the class of 2023, out of the 476 graduates, there was one female from the New Providence class who graduated with a certificate in electrical installation compared to 12 males and five females from that same class who graduated with an information technology entry level certificate compared to 20 males.

Females enrolling at and graduating from BTVI are choosing the fields traditionally associated with females, with the highest subscribed ones being the certificate in office assistant along with special interest courses including esthetics, nail technology and massage therapy.

“This is not to say, however, that all is lost, for indeed, there is money in the beauty trades,” said Davis.

On the other hand, there are growth trends in the non-traditional trades, as there was a small number of female graduates in male-dominated fields such as barbering, carpentry, electrical installation, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), construction and electrical installation. She said it was worth noting as well that in BTVI’s newest program referenced in the meeting paper – WAMM 236a – four out of the nine media technology graduates were women.

“Still, as we analyze the data further, despite significantly lower enrolment rates in the non-traditional fields for women, on average 51 percent of those who eventually graduated were female. When compared to enrolment rates, this suggests that women have a much greater chance of completing programs, earning certification and, in BTVI parlance; learning a trade and earning a living,’” she said.

Davis believes getting to the root of the issue of gender disparity is paramount.

“Discussing the occupational segregation that exists might prove pointless without addressing what has become a cultural norm, almost silencing the ambitions and abilities of females. A change towards women in non-traditional fields is predicated on a change in attitude first, beginning with you, me … all of us. Indeed, a modern workforce reflecting modern trends require a modern attitude,” she said.

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