UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 07 | April
Study suggests girls avoiding high-tech
Young women are steering clear of courses despite opportunities
by Bruce Mason staff writer
"Competence and confidence with a range of technologies is essential
for full participation in our culture," says Education Assoc. Prof.
Applied technology fields are the fastest growing sectors in the
production, and educational curriculum development. But contrary to popular
belief there is no improvement in the numbers of female students enrolled in
technology-intensive courses in B.C.'s secondary schools in the past
That is the major finding and first surprise in the Gender and Technology in
B.C. Schools Study, the most comprehensive analysis of its kind.
Study researchers are sounding a warning that major curricular reforms are
"The evidence does not support a pattern of slow and steady change," says
Bryson, one of the research team members.
In senior secondary courses, the current percentage of girls enrolled in
technology-intensive courses remains extremely low and essentially unaltered
despite an explicit Ministry of Education gender equity policy.
Female students who are enrolled in technology-intensive courses continue to
earn more A's and B's than their male peers on average, so it's not a question
of technophobia say the researchers, who include SFU Education Prof.
Suzanne de Castell, UBC Curriculum Studies Assoc. Prof. Stephen Petrina
and Marcia Braundy, a graduate student in UBC's Centre for the Study of
Curriculum and Instruction.
In computer science and information technology courses, the participation of
female students remains significantly below 50 per cent of total students
enrolled, and declines precipitously as students move towards Grade 12 where
the average is 20 per cent.
Boys continue to exert a pervasive predominance in technology-intensive areas
in the curriculum with the exception of keyboarding, information management and
clothing and textiles courses.
While total enrolments in the most popular technology courses have dropped by
13 per cent since 1987-88, the percentage of girls increased by just over two
per cent. In 1987-88 the percentage of girls enrolled in Grade 11 and 12
technology courses was almost eight per cent. Currently it is 10 per cent.
The study analysed all available B.C. Ministry of Education
sex-disaggregated data and contacted all B.C. secondary schools. Of 375
schools, only 13 responded to a request for information on initiatives.
The fact that girls and boys are mandated to take one applied skills course
is seen as a milestone in gender relations in B.C. education history.
However the result is that a vast majority of boys elect technology and girls
elect business education or home economics, says Bryson.