By Lesley B. Keeling-Olson, Ed.D.
I am a nontraditional gender participant, completer, and current practitioner, and I am proud of the fact that I am still active in the field after 30 years. Because I am representative of the Perkins Core Indicators, many would assume that I intentionally fought to overcome barriers or hindrances; however, just a few decades ago, we did not identify the occupational tasks that we had to complete that were difficult because of gender differences as barriers or hindrances. In order to become a peace officer, who just happened to be female, I realized my law enforcement style and functions would be different than my male counterparts. Different does not mean wrong! I just had to adopt different styles and techniques to adapt to a male dominated environment.
This year I was fortunate to attend the National Alliance for Partners in Equity Conference. While attending these sessions, I had an epiphany: equal is not equity. For me, this image demonstrates the difference between these two terms that are often used interchangeably.
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Our nontraditional gender CTE participants and completers are entering CTE careers where they may, because of gender, have to use different skills and abilities. Our students will have to learn to adapt in their fields. This modification means we, as CTE educators, need to be mindful that we are preparing an equity-seeking, diversity-desiring workforce that is distinctive and different in order to address our equity-seeking, diversity-desiring, distinctive, and different society. Again, different does not mean wrong. We have finally entered an age where differences are being acknowledged and embraced. Pioneers have already blazed the way. The pathways are available and plentiful. Now, it is up to our generation to provide ACCESS TO THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES, so true equality can be attained for all.