Examining the gender gap in FCS and Tech Ed Departments


Ashley Kister

NPHS students Cameryn Myrie, C’enna Crosby, and Katiana Dupiche work on a project in their Advanced Clothing Textiles and Merchandising class. There are no male students currently enrolled in this class.

When it comes to pursuing one’s passions, the sky’s the limit at North Penn High School (NPHS). By offering a wide variety of classes and after school activities for its students, NPHS brims with opportunity accessible to all. Unfortunately, it is possible that not all students are pursuing the classes and activities that they may be interested in. Cooking, sewing, child care, engineering, coding, construction- although anyone has the potential to enjoy any of these activities, there is a noticeable gender disparity within the classes that cover these skills. Of the 764 students who are taking classes in the Family and Consumer Science (FCS) department this year, only 197 of them are male. Further illustrating the gender disparity, a mere 25 females are taking Technical Education (Tech Ed) classes this year.

What’s going on here?

Diane Galaton, who has been a FCS teacher at NPHS for 15 years, explained how many individuals tend to associate FCS classes with home economics and therefore the stereotypical housewife.

“They think it’s becky homecky and it’s not that… It’s a lot more advanced and we’re alot more focused on things other than cooking and sewing” said Galaton.  In Food Science, for example, students learn not only how to cook but also what makes food appealing. In Clothing Textiles and Merchandising, students learn about the elements and principles of design in addition to the construction of garments.

Michael Boyer, a Tech Ed teacher at NPHS, affirmed that Tech Ed classes and programs “are designed to offer opportunities regardless of gender.” However, female enrollment has remained low despite various efforts to close the gender gap.

“We’ve always been low on female enrollment since I’ve been teaching here for the past 21 years” Boyer said.

On the bright side, the students who do decide to pursue their passions are ecstatic with their decision to take the classes that pertain to their interests.

Julia Santos, who is the only female in her Engineering Design and Development class, described her passion for the engineering academy, a five class sequential program.

“I love the fact that we can have freedom in what we learn. That’s the one thing that is very different between all of the other classes and tech ed classes… the things we learn are more applicable to life” said Santos. Santos is so dedicated to the engineering classes that she has voluntarily sacrificed lunches, Saturdays, and even bits of summer vacation to further her work.

Damon Berry, who is the only male in his Preschool Laboratory 2 Dual Credit class, aims to pursue a career in pediatric nursing due to his passion for assisting children.

“Little kids are my soft spot” said Berry, who enjoys being able to teach and interact with kids on a regular basis. Berry is also a football player here at NPHS.

“It’s ironic… A lot of people don’t expect football players, especially when the sport is real physical and aggressive, to go to preschool class. It’s shocking to some people” said Berry. Despite the irony of the situation, people are generally accepting of Berry’s activities.

“It really doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. It really doesn’t seem like a big deal to anybody else” said Berry.

Santos, on the other hand, has been called lesbian for taking Tech Ed classes.

“I think that’s kind of what throws other girls off from going into tech ed. They have this idea that if you are letting the techie side of you or the more engineering side of you go people will take you as more of a manly figure… it’s just a little offsetting” Santos said. Regardless of a student’s biological sex, Santos emphasized, main goal of taking Tech Ed classes is to learn. The gender disparity  persists nonetheless.

“At least one of the classes I’ve taken every year I’ve been the only girl, and it’s kind of gotten normal” Santos said. “I think it’s a bad thing that there’s not more girls in it because we have a lot to offer too.”

Boyer further elaborated on why a lack of gender diversity is a problem in the Tech Ed department.

“People in general bring their own perceptions, their own experiences to the table so to speak. So when a problem comes up to be solved, if you have everyone with the same mindset solving the problem you’re going to get the same answer every time. But when you bring somebody with a different perspective, has different life experiences… they bring their own important perspective to the problem and when they do it broadens the possible solution base… The more diverse our student set is over developing solutions to problems the better off they can be ” said Boyer.

The gender gap observable in the FCS and Tech Ed departments is a problem that extends beyond the classroom. Skills like problem solving, innovation, and creativity are on demand in the job market and are taught in classes in both departments. In addition, these skills are applicable to life as an adult, as Galaton explained.

“[The FCS department is] among the most focused departments as far as actually preparing kids for jobs outside of this place and for just survival in the real world. We’re hoping you’re not going to live in your parents’ basement the rest of your lives. We’d like to think that you’re going to be able to go out there and cook yourself a meal, know how to write a check, know what it’s like to go into a car dealership and know what’s going to happen when you walk in there” said Galaton.

The Tech Ed department has even partnered with NASA, Montgomery County Community College, Temple University, and Penn State in order to better prepare students for life after high school.

In the end, both Santos and Berry encouraged students to pursue their interests despite any obstacle that may be in their way.

“It sucks that I’m the only girl in the class, but it’s just worth it.” Santos said. “Don’t ever be afraid to do what you love and follow anything that you think is cool”

“If anybody is not taking a class just because they’re thinking about what other people will say to them about it, just do it” advised Berry.