• Group learning and peer support are balanced with a self-directed learning approach. Dixon Hall has rejected "continuous intake" since a collective environment seems to enhance women's learning.
  • The training is practical and hands-on. The women master the technology by experiencing and doing.
  • High tech training has been demystified - it is no longer the preserve of large institutions.


We launched Computers in the Community (CIC) last September, not without anxiety. We had been warned to expect a 50% dropout rate for part-time, general interest courses. The CEIC pays us by the hour for training actually delivered so we feared the worst. Eight months later, our fears have been demolished.

  • Demand for the program has doubled since the Fall (more than 640 applications for 270 seats this Spring).
  • Full enrolment has been maintained at all times.
  • The attendance rate averages 90%.
  • 92% of the students successfully completed the Fall courses and 90% of the Winter courses.
  • Two-thirds of the Fall semester students are now either a employed or enrolled in a full-time training or upgrading program (70% were unemployed when they joined the program).
  • 64% of the fall students are continuing their education, the majority on a part-time basis.
  • Over 40 organizations and individuals across Canada have requested information and/or advice on setting up similar programs in their communities.


CIC is successful for another reason. Seventy percent of the staff at Dixon Hall are women. The Department heads are all women. The new Executive Director is a woman. The STEP program trainees are all women. 80% of the CIC students are women. How does this affect the shape and dynamics of our organization?

It is clear that women are having an impact on the workforce and not just in terms of numbers. The quality or organizational life is changing as more, and more women enter management. This phenomenon may account for the increasingly popular concept of "androgynous management" - an approach that blends the best each gender offers.

For several years now, women's organizations have experimented with networking, decision-making by consensus, local control, shared leadership, and non-authoritarian organizational structures. It is interesting to note that some of these same principles are currently being explored by organizations in both the private and public sector.

At Dixon Hall, this process is underway. Women in management are learning the skills necessary to both run an effective organization and meet people's needs. The organizational structure is decentralized and relatively autonomous, and the style of work relatively informal and democratic. The results speak for themselves.

It is significant that the impetus behind community-based skills-training in Toronto comes from women's organizations or groups involved in women's training. A small, decentralized structure with its opportunity for more collective leadership and decision-making, fits well with many women's style of work.


Behind the preference for a more collective, group effort, however, lies a deeper reality. For many women, "affiliation is valued as highly as or more highly than self-enhancement" (Baker-Miller, 1976, p. 83).

This reality has not been acknowledged by most social scientists and adult educators. Autonomy, self-actualization, and individuation have been used to describe maturity, regardless of the gender of the adult. Carol Gilligan argues that "male and female voices typically speak of the importance of different truths, the former of the role of separation as it defines and empowers the self, the latter of the ongoing process of attachment that creates and sustains the human community...the silence of women in the narrative of adult development distorts the conception of its stages and sequence" (1982, p. 156).

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