Gender and the Construction Classroom: Project CHANGE Pilot Promotes Empowerment

By Allison Dumka
Project CHANGE (Career, Harassment, and Nontraditional Gender Education) educates students about gender stereotypes in Career and Technical Education class enrollment. To achieve this mission, Project CHANGE provides free workshops to K-12 schools and community organizations on topics including preventing sexual harassment and online bullying, and how to consider Career and Technical Education classes, as well as career paths, outside the box of gender stereotypes. 
In the 2017-2018 school year, Project CHANGE partnered with Bisbee High School to pilot a new way of supporting Career and Technical Education programs' female enrollment. Staff implemented Career Catalyst, a peer mentorship program for young women, which covered a variety of topics surrounding gender and career choices. Senior Instructional Specialist Allison Dumka designed the yearlong curriculum, which included explaining the gender wage gap, how Career and Technical Education classes are often segregated by gender (i.e., more girls in Cosmetology and Nursing, more boys in Automotive and Welding), why gender stereotypes may prevent exploring certain careers, the importance of mentorship, and how to feel more confident when negotiating challenging situations. Peer mentors learned the subjects first semester, and helped teach three sessions in the second semester. 
In the 2017-2018 school year, 12 girls enrolled in construction. After Career Catalyst, enrollment interest increased. 18 girls selected construction as their primary CTE request, and ten have requested it as their alternate request. This demonstrates a significant growth in interest after Career Catalyst instruction. Additionally, girls took on formal leadership roles as managers in the classroom, and several girls began summer internships in the construction industry. Upon evaluation, 96% of girls understood how mentorship was important in gender nontraditional classes or career paths. 92% agreed they understood the benefits of a nontraditional career and 80% of students indicated more interest in a nontraditional career than they were prior to entering the program. Students indicated they understood the importance of mentoring and that the peer mentorship component improved the classroom environment. 96% responded they understood how a mentor might be helpful in a nontraditional class or career path. Several students mentioned that taking on a mentoring role helped them retain the important content they had learned first semester. Another student indicated that mentorship directed her on a path she hadn’t considered before as a leader. Additional students mentioned being a mentor helped to improve their confidence and they enjoyed helping others learn. 
Project CHANGE looks forward to continuining to implement Career Catalyst in the 2018-2019 school year as part of a conscious effort to disrupt gender stereotypes, provide mentorship, encourage confidence, and ultimately, to prepare students to succeed in any career they choose. 
For more information about Career Catalyst or Project CHANGE, email Allison Dumka at