Although welding is not technically considered a “traditional” trade — it only came into vogue during World War II — the profession is still dominated by working class white males, just like carpentry and other construction occupations. In the manufacturing sector, women and minorities managed to significantly expand their share of the job pie during the 1990s. At that time, an impressive 20 percent of the workforce was female, and 30 percent minorities. (Those figures are for manufacturing jobs in general.) And according to a recent news story from CNBC, 27 percent of 12 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are held by women.
One eerie new trend to watch for is the veteran’s preference initiative. While the idea sounds good in theory, it also gives employers a clever way to sidestep EEO compliance. Only a very small percentage of veterans are women, so this “preference” has the potential to radically impact job prospects for them in the future.
As hiring statistics continue to show, indoor welding still provides women with easier access to the workforce than outdoor welding, especially at construction sites. Even women with 6G certification struggle to get hired for positions in the field. With many new pipeline projects on the horizon, hopefully that doorway will begin to open a little wider the in coming years.
Military training for welders, while an appealing proposition on the surface, also presents hurdles for women. All branches of military service welcome female participants as a matter of law. However, the Pentagon has never made any lasting effort to suppress and punish pervasive harrassment and sexual assault. Learning the job under the best of circumstances is challenging enough for any welder. Hostiliy and threats to personal security make it nearly impossible. In addition, the armed forces maintain a strict age range of 18-35 for new recruits.
In general, minority men have a much greater presence within the welding workforce than women, and future prospects remain excellent. Recent news stories also illustrate that people with disabilities, including those in wheelchairs, have proven themselves as competent welders. Since TIG, robotics and a few other forms of welding require a high level of skill, this eliminates a huge chunk of the competition for those jobs. So the extra attention to detail while in school can pay off.
In the area of education, many community and junior colleges still operate all-male welding departments, even though Title IX was passed back in 1972. That legislation bans gender discrimination and requires the U.S. Department of Education to investigate any complaints. Yet college recruitment efforts that limit vacancy searches to the usual teacher-hiring job boards frequently generate few applicants; this allows welding department faculties to steer friends and acquaintances through a non-competitive process.
Women welders interested in teaching are encouraged to be vigilant and act quickly on job postings when they arise. Inquire afterward about the experience/training of the successful candidate, and if you think it’s warranted, file an EEO complaint. While that may not reverse the hiring decision, job applicants in the future are likely to benefit once the trip wire has been triggered.
Getting back to the private sector, if all else fails keep an eye out for minority and woman-owned businesses. A growing number of them have entered the skilled trades sector over the last quarter-century. In many cases, an employee roster high in non-white males is essential to these companies, since they may enjoy a special government contracting preference. And that means they’re more likely to welcome your job application.