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Samantha Dorwin, of North Adams, speaks in Washington, D.C., about gender equity in career and technical education fields.

NORTH ADAMS >> A recent graduate of the machine technology program at McCann Technical School, Samantha Dorwin, 18, has traveled across the U.S. and Canada to talk about the career and technical education (CTE) fields, as well as the gender equity gaps in these fields. Here we ask her five questions about her experiences and observations:

QYou recently spoke in Washington, D.C. about shattering gender stereotypes in CTE fields. What did you learn from that event?

AI have learned that although my area was very supportive of the "nontraditional" CTE fields, there is definitely a large gap in the professional world which causes a serious struggle for many women in the pursuit of their dreams. I walked away inspired to make a change, and realized the strength and power of voicing my thoughts and opinions to all, and so by standing together all women can work to eliminate the gender barriers.

QDo you agree that there's a gender gap in CTE fields? If so, where do you see the greater disparities?

AYes ... While many might think that this gap is most prevalent in a CTE school setting, I believe that the gap is most often found in the workplace. Within McCann, I've been exposed to a wide acceptance of girls in electrical, carpentry, automotive and machining programs, but this acceptance does not carry through into their careers after a completed high school education.


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Q What's one stereotype you've heard, and how would you like to see it change?

A One stereotype that I have heard quite often, is that women are too weak to manage lifting heavy objects, and that they are not handy enough to use tools correctly. One way that I believe can help "shatter" this stereotype, and really all stereotypes, is by eliminating the word "nontraditional" and thus eliminating the gender barriers. If we as a society stop labeling a career choice as "nontraditional" based on gender, and start viewing all career choices as a personal fit, I think women in construction trades or men in a nursing field will be more widely accepted.

Q What's one way schools and businesses can better support women and girls in CTE fields?

ABy having teachers reach out to students in the field after graduation, the student will feel much more supported and confident, regardless of the stereotypical view of the working society. This act could be something as small as some encouraging words, but will allow the student to know they are not alone in their push for acceptance, because they always have someone on the sidelines cheering them on.

QIf you could meet one domestic or international leader, who would that be, and why?

AIt would definitely be Michelle Obama. I feel as if, through all of her initiatives, she has given not only women, but the entire United States a strong presence.

Through all of her work, she has constantly pushed to improve life for many people, specifically children, which is something that I strongly believe in, since the upcoming generations are the future of our nation.