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WVC to Host Presentation on Community Colleges and Women

Community colleges across the nation can build upon their legacy of providing educational access to all by increasing attention and improving outreach to women students. That’s one of the key messages of a recent American Association of University Women report that will be the subject of a presentation on Saturday, October 12 at West Valley College.

Co-sponsored by West Valley College and the Los Gatos-Saratoga chapter of AAUW, the presentation features a discussion by Andresse St. Rose, AAUW senior researcher and report co-author. The presentation is free and open to the public. 

“Here we are in 2013 and we are still talking about access to success,” said Victoria Hindes, vice president of student services at WVC. “Academic and social barriers still bar the way to educational paths. As the authors stated in their study, community colleges offer an attractive solution for many women who are single head of households or mothers of young children, or those who have never considered a college degree a viable option. Many of our students are economically disadvantaged, and some are underprepared for college coursework and not ready for employment. Partnering with AAUW to co-sponsor this presentation makes a powerful statement that West Valley College provides choices to our varied learners, allowing them access to education and preparing them to succeed in degree programs that meet the demands of high-skill, high wage jobs in this vibrant region.” 

During the two-hour presentation, St. Rose will discuss the report, which provides an overview of community college students today, their goals and their realities. The report focuses on two areas of particular importance to women: the challenges facing student mothers and the opportunities for women students in nontraditional career fields, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Community colleges, the report finds, are an attractive option for mothers of young children, yet limited access to childcare disrupts many mothers’ educational paths. Supporting mothers’ educational and professional success must include increasing the availability of affordable child care, according to the report. 

Additionally, the report explains that while community colleges offer a wide breadth of educational offerings, women students tend to pursue traditionally female occupations in nursing, teaching and cosmetology and are underrepresented in STEM fields. Gender stereotypes and a lack of information are some of the barriers to women’s participation in STEM and other nontraditional fields in community colleges, according to the report. 

“These challenges are not insurmountable, but institutions must actively intervene to help close the gender gap in these fields,” the report states. 

Virginia Turner, president of the Los Gatos-Saratoga AAUW chapter, said she hopes attendees leave the presentation with a better understanding of how to further assist women in succeeding at the community college level. 

“I hope what they get out of it is that AAUW is an organization that makes a difference for women and girls, both locally and nationally, and that this presentation provides visibility and support for community colleges, whether that means attending one, encouraging someone to attend or improving services,” Turner said. “I hope the presentation also gets them thinking about what is happening overall with women in the education field.” 

This free presentation begins at 10 a.m. October 12 in the WVC Campus Center. For additional information, call Virginia Turner at (408) 866-4234.