Women have been breaking down gender norms in the workplace for longer than many people realize. Since the days of Rosie the Riveter, American women have been quietly excelling at jobs that people once believed were only suited for men. During World War II, patriotism, economic need, and a shortage of male workers brought women out of the home and into factories where they learned a host of new skills, including welding and manufacturing. Considering that some public schools still weren’t allowing girls in welding classes in the 1960s, the fact that women remained in the skilled trades after men returned from World War II and are represented in them today is quite impressive. Here’s why this trend needs to continue.

1. Skilled Labor Shortage Creates Demand

Women are once again finding success in non-traditional jobs. Careers in technology continue to interest younger generations. Unfortunately, the push for technology education often means vocational training and shop class get squeezed out. This trend has hurt the manufacturing industry and contributed to a shortage of workers. Women are stepping up to fill that labor gap and could be better represented in the skilled trades in the future.

2. Benefits of Working in the Skilled Trades

Not only are there abundant opportunities for women in the skilled trades, but the pay is competitive and the required education is affordable and fast. If you think working as a welder, electrician, or HVAC technician is a dead-end job, think again. Nancy Cole, past president of the American Welding Society and only the second female president in the society’s 95-year history, confirms that the shortage of skilled welders has created wonderful opportunities for women and that the pay can be quite good. Hourly wages can climb to $25 for welders with the right training and experience, says Judith Crocker of the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network in Cleveland.

3. Opportunities Abound for Modern-Day Rosies

In spite of all the benefits a career in the skilled trades can offer, less than nine percent of the U.S. construction workforce is female. Through outreach programs and continued education, people like Nancy Cole hope to see that number grow. Women belong in the skilled trades. It’s true that working in non-traditional jobs can sometimes be physically demanding, but robotic equipment and other technologies have made shops safer, cleaner, and easier places to work than they once were. A shortage of skilled trades workers is opening up more opportunities for women of all ages to become modern-day “Rosies.”
women in skilled trades stats

Infographic source

Featured image courtesy of Library of Congress.