Women's movement into technical fields: A comparison of technical and community colleges

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Obstacles to women's integration at traditionally male institutions are not only legal but also psychological and institutional. This study has found that women today are more interested in applying to traditionally male technical programs and that they can succeed, particularly if institutions adapt to their needs. Women's success does not require that they become a large numerical presence; rather, it depends on institutions making overtures to welcome them, counseling them frequently, giving them explicit encouragement, and developing teaching schedules that permit women with jobs and children to manage classes despite these constraints. Small institutions also seem to have an advantage in terms of making women, especially those who have not previously done well academically, feel comfortable. Previous research has highlighted psychological and socialization explanations for women's lack of success in the male-dominated fields of mathematics, science, and technology. While this study supports the idea that psychological factors-in particular, locus of control-play a role, it also shows the difference institutional environments can make. The findings are particularly remarkable since the women focused on had family and educational backgrounds that generally make academic success less likely. Also noteworthy is that women experienced the environments of the two for-profit technical colleges, which are still predominantly male, as more supportive than the institutional climate of the community colleges, which have always had a high proportion of women students. The structures that the technical colleges originally established to serve (male) students with poor academic records have been adapted to assist women who are often juggling parental, work, and academic demands. Perhaps because these for-profit private institutions are more accountable for retention and job placement outcomes, it is in their interest to be encouraging to all those who enroll. Community colleges, on the other hand, face funding pressures that limit the amount of systematic support they can provide to their women students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGoing Coed
Subtitle of host publicationWomen's Experiences in Formerly Men's Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000
PublisherVanderbilt University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)0826514480, 9780826514486
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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