MONTPELIER -- More than two dozen Vermont residents will work together over the next six months to look for ways to help young women and girls in the state overcome obstacles to success that were identified by researchers who interviewed 210 young women from 28 communities.
The group that announced its plans Tuesday at the Statehouse said it would seek solutions to problems including a lack of exposure to a broad range of career choices, a lack of personal financial skills and fears of living independently.
The goal of the 28-member task force is to prepare the report in time for the Vermont Legislature’s 2014 session. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for late May.
Vermont Works Executive Director Tiffany Bluemle said young men and boys face many of the same challenges as young women and girls, but women are still twice as likely as men to live in poverty. And it comes despite increasing evidence that girls and young women are outperforming boys and young men in school.
"I know plenty of girls who are extremely intelligent and are going places, but they don’t necessarily know where they are going," said Annalee Beaulieu, 16, of Underhill, a junior at Mount Mansfield Union High School who hopes to become a politician and spoke at Tuesday’s event. "So while someone can definitely be smart, there’s a difference (in) knowing what you want to do with your intelligence and just having it. I think we really need to make more of an effort to get girls and women interested in careers that they wouldn’t traditionally consider."
The report, called "Enough Said," identified a variety of factors that keep girls and young women from performing up to their abilities, including a lack of exposure to science, technology and mathematics studies and fields not traditionally filled by women.
"Young women do have barriers to this," said Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce, who will be a member of the group. "They do not have the practical knowledge, they haven’t had the same ability to access (information about) careers and familiarity with that. We’ve got to find solutions to that and work together."
Vermont Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca said that earlier Tuesday he visited Lamoille Valley Union High School in Johnson, where he met a young woman studying heating, ventilation and air conditioning. She was the only girl in the program.
"She was asking me, ‘Why aren’t there more?’ She had an answer, by the way, to a certain extent, that there’s not enough exposure, particularly at the early ages for nontraditional careers for both young women and for young men," said Vilaseca, who called for more career pathways for students and ways to make school more personal.