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  • Writer's pictureDonna Milgram

Are your female STEM students stuck doing admin in their internships?

How to prevent a STEM gender divide

How to prevent a STEM gender divide

One of the community colleges I'm working with has a female Automotive tech student doing admin in their internship in an automotive shop. None of the male students in internships are stuck doing admin. How did this happen?

I think we know how it happened.

Nearly 2/3 of the female automotive technicians I surveyed were steered towards admin or service writer positions when they were applying for technician jobs. How can we help prevent this?

What I recommend is that the Internship or Cooperative Experience Coordinator has a proactive conversation with the employer to make sure the female students are in positions which will support the core competencies in the curriculum. 

To make it uber easy for you, here’s a quick script:

The conversation might go like this: “I know you’d never do this, but some of our employer partners have asked female students to do service writing rather than actually working on cars. Crazy, right? The students are here to become technicians, so it’s important their internship has them working on cars, and not in an admin position.”

I’m sure if I surveyed women in other career pathways such as cybersecurity I’d find the same thing. (Our solution for this is in the works!)

Please be vigilant when setting up internships. Have a list of core competencies you expect employers to help students to learn, depending on where they are in the curriculum –  and explicitly share those with employers. Ideally, make them part of your written agreement with the employer. 

STEM and CTE students provide cheap labor to employers who are starved for technicians, so don’t be shy about advocating for your female - and male - students so that they gain the skills they need to excel in their field. 

Institute check-ins with students about their internships every 6 months and have them fill out an online checklist about their daily responsibilities. If you follow these steps, not only will your female students not get stuck doing admin, but you'll also have a better internship experience for all your students.

Do you want some help with improving your internships and job placement for your female and male students? I have some limited appointment times to talk with you about how I can help.

Maureen Devlin Clancy Makerspace

“Before attending the WomenTech Educators Training I had a lot more success retaining women in my database class than in my introductory Programming classes—actually, I wasn't retaining any women in my introductory Programming classes. They were all dropping.

That was a big win for me, that I had an increase in retention of females in my introductory Programming courses. [...]

I want to commend you [IWITTS] on the structure of the material and how when I walked out of the training, I had a plan.

If I had not had a plan, I would have gotten back and not done as much. Having a plan all laid out, when I walked in, gave me something I could work with. [...]

~ Barbara DuFrain, Associate Professor, Computer Science, Engineering and Advanced Technology, Del Mar College, TX participated in a 2012 WomenTech In-person Training, Female Enrollment in Her Computer Programming Class Increased by 65% and Retention of both female and male students increased by 45%.

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