Women in Welding: The Past, Present, & Future
Welding has traditionally been predominantly a man’s job, but female welders are on the rise. The number of female welders has soared in recent times, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Their numbers indicate that between 2016 and 2019 there has been an increase of 30% of women in the welding industry. Even with that increase, in 2020, women welders made up 3.8% of the welding industry, and today they account for over 6% of welders.
Not a lot of people know that women played an integral role in the development of the American welding industry. Did you know women have actually been in the welding field for several generations, since the 1940s? During World War II, when men were shipped off overseas to fight, thousands of women were recruited to work and took over the welding industry.
These female welders built ships, aircraft, vehicles, weapons, and equipment needed by the troops. The workforce saw an increase in women across all industries, and by 1943 they made up 65% of the labor force! The advertising campaign featuring “Rosie the Riveter” became one of the most iconic images of women working during the war.
However, when the war was over, women lost their jobs to returning service male members. Gender norms prevailed, and today, although the steady increase of women welders, welding and other similar careers are still considered “non-traditional” jobs for women.
Today, women join the industry by choice instead of national necessity. All in all, more women have started joining the welding industry, and they are doing a good job of it. Women don’t lack the skill or traits needed to do the job well.
In fact, women possess a few biological characteristics that studies indicate can make them better welders than men.
Some factors include:
- Women have 8-15% lower center of gravity. Welders need the ability to stay balanced and keep good posture, especially in elevated places. Women excel here because they have the ability to maintain balance that surpasses that of men.
- Women have greater hand stability. Research shows that on average, the total fluctuation is 1.3 times greater in men than women. There are many studies that suggest that on average, their hands don’t shake as much as men’s when performing precise, low-force tasks. This is useful in TIG welding and Plasma Arc Cutting.
- Women take better care of their heath. Female welders have shown that they are better in health than males. Research shows that when compared to working conditions, types of tasks, the protection that they use, and overall well-being, women workers are more prone to using added protection and taking care of themselves, resulting in fewer injuries and fewer respiratory issues from welding fumes.
Women have an immense opportunity if they choose to follow this path. 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. With uncertainties with labor shortage, demand and salaries are on the rise. Welding taps into critical thinking, scientific, and mathematical skills, as well. Being one of the women in the industry also gives people a chance to be a pioneer and leader, encouraging other women to join the industry.
Though the trend of increasing welders in the industry, and specifically women welders, is expected to continue, it seems that the industry may start facing uncertainties 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. Employers are seeking to fill labor shortages and encourage gender diversity in the workplace.
A career in welding can offer women the opportunity to build products and structures that change people’s lives. Since women can perform an incredible job in this trade, encouraging girls to consider welding as a career can help reduce our labor shortage while helping to diversify the workforce. As more women learn about the opportunities that await them in welding and other trades, more will be inspired and consider exploring these promising careers. The future of the welding industry might once again lie in the hands of women.
“Woman in Welding” at Spec – Breanna Malak
We are proud to have Breanna Malak as a welder at Spec Engineering. Learn a little more about her and what sparked her interest in the welding field.
What do you day by day?
“I weld and fabricate frames according to the blueprint.”
What is your favorite part of what you do?
“My favorite part is seeing the job from start to finish and constantly learning new things.”
What made you want to get involved in the welding profession?
“I’ve always been interested in working with my hands and building things.”
Have you experienced any challenges as a woman in the industry?
“I’m sure all women have felt underestimated at times or feel the need to prove themselves in this industry. Don’t get discouraged!”
Any advice to give women who are thinking about following the same career path as you?
“Work hard and stay motivated.”
What has been your most memorable experience with Spec since you started?
I really enjoyed working on flow panels; it was definitely a challenge!
What are a few of your hobbies?
I enjoy riding dirt bikes and hanging out with my friends.
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