High school career and technical education programs haven't progressed much since the days when girls were required to take home economics and boys were required to enroll in shop class, according to a report by the National Women's Law Center.

The report, “Tools of the Trade,” examined girls' participation in career and technical education programs that are nontraditional for their gender. In spite of the Title IX law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, girls still represent the majority of students in traditionally female fields and boys are nearly all of the students in traditionally male programs, a pattern that is unchanged after three decades since Title IX was passed, the report stated.

For example, a 1977 study by the federal Office for Civil Rights found that girls made up 14 percent of students in trade and industrial courses - welding, carpentry, masonry, automotive. Today, girls represent 15 percent of students in those courses.

Data was collected from schools in 12 states - Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington. On average, girls represent 4 percent of students in heating and air conditioning; 5 percent of students in welding; 6 percent of students in electrical, automotive and plumbing; 7 percent of students in masonry; and 9 percent of students in electronic equipment installation and repair.

The report noted that opportunities for girls continues to be limited by barriers such as gender stereotyping and sexual harassment in nontraditional classes; some girls who successfully enrolled in these classes often face hostility from peers and even teachers.

Although legal tools are available to address these barriers, the report said their effectiveness is limited by inadequate enforcement and insufficient public awareness.