Not a lot of people are aware that women have played an integral part in the development of the American welding industry. During World War II, when men were shipped off overseas to fight, women took over the welding industry to build ships, airplanes, and other necessities that were needed. However when the war ended, women were asked to go back home.
It seems that the industry is in peril once again, this time due to a severe labor shortage. Predictions state that by the year 2024 about 400,000 experienced welders will have retired. The future of the once potent welding industry might once again lie in the hands of women.
Can Women Really do This?
Yes! Women don't lack the skill or traits needed to do the job well. In fact they possess a few biological characteristics that can make them better welders than men.
For instance, women have 8-15% lower center of gravity COG. This helps them stay balanced, especially in elevated places. Additionally, there are many studies that suggest that women have steadier hand. On average, their hands don’t shake as much as men’s when performing precise, low force tasks. This is particularly useful in techniques, like TIG welding and Plasma Arc Cutting. While men are physically stronger, brute force isn't a critical trait that's required for successful welders.
Why Aren't Girls Becoming Welders?
Welding and other trade professions aren't as popular as they once were. They aren't taught in school and are portrayed as "lesser than" careers in our society. Four year degrees and tech skills are glamorized while high schools are dropping vocational education. Futurists portray robots as the future, that'll eventually replace all human manual labor. Finally, according to tradeswomen.org women are significantly underrepresented in the welding industry and only make-up 1% of the workforce
When you factor in all the above points, it becomes clear why parents don't encourage girls to even consider a career in welding.
Is There An Upside?
Women have a tremendous opportunity if they choose to follow the road less traveled. There is a much lower barrier to entry and students can complete the Welding Certificate Program in 6 to 18 months. Program costs are significantly less than the pursuit of a 4-year degree. Graduates don't have to look hard to get hired. With the growing shortage of welders, demand and salaries are on the rise. There is significant opportunity to earn more through overtime and experienced welders with technical certifications can accept more difficult jobs earning them high six figures.
Welding industry binds our world together – literally. Much of the world around us has been made with some type of a welding process and if we want to sustain it, we'll need more certified welders. Since women can perform an incredible job in this trade, encouraging girls to consider welding as a career can help reduce our significant labor shortage while helping to diversify the workforce. To sign-off, here's a helpful infographic about women in welding.