Here are a few sobering facts for you: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 2.2 percent of electricians, 2.8 percent of carpenters, and 5.3 percent of welders are women. All in all, women make up a tiny portion of the skilled trade workforce throughout the United States. What does this tell us? Despite the fact that these are all highly desirable skilled trade professions offering huge income potential, women are greatly underrepresented within them. And, if you ask us, that’s pretty messed up.
Why are there so few women working trade jobs, you ask? It’s a complicated issue that dates back centuries, but factors such as a higher likelihood of sexual harassment may be at play. One 1999 report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that 88 percent of women in construction have experienced sexual harassment). However, with the conversation on workplace sexual harassment constantly evolving, the outlook for women in construction is undoubtedly a lot brighter than it once was.
Blatant hiring discrimination and a measurable wage gap may also contribute to the lower numbers of women in trade industries. Coupled with deep-seated, largely arbitrary gender roles in the skilled workforce, women have been shoved to the side of many high-paying vocational fields pretty much forever.
Why You Should Consider a Skilled Trade Job
We can’t say specifically what has prevented women from becoming construction workers, electricians, plumbers, or welders, but we know one thing: it has nothing to do with their abilities or their intellect, which is why we’re out to shake up the stats! If you’re a woman who dreams of crushing it in a traditionally male-dominated trade industry, here are some more reasons why you should pursue these careers anyway.
- The Skilled Trade Job Market Is Super-Secure — Perhaps because they’ve all but barred half of humanity from participating in them for decades, the skilled trades are suffering from a pretty serious workforce shortage at the moment. The skilled trades gap means we’re short on electricians, plumbers, miners, loggers, construction workers, utility workers, and HVAC workers, all of whom are essential to the success and growth of our societies. As a result of this, the job security in virtually all skilled trades is a given for the foreseeable future.
- Skilled Trade Careers Are Surprisingly Lucrative — If you thought there were no good paying jobs in the skilled trades, you’d be wrong! In the same way that the skilled labor shortage has created a secure, wide-open job market for those who want to pursue these fields, it has also significantly upped their pay. According to the BLS, construction trade workers make around $70,540 annually; electricians make around $59,190 annually; and HVAC installers make around $50,160 annually. Carpenters, iron workers, and plumbers earn even more.
- Skilled Trades Don’t Require College — One of the best things about these fields is that they typically don’t require a huge educational investment. That means a few things for aspiring workers: you can get to work faster (three to six months of schooling or apprenticeship versus several years of college) and the cost to obtain your qualification is much cheaper. The average cost to complete a trade program is around $33,000, compared to about that much per year of college at a traditional four-year university. And if you have opted into a vocational school program in high school, there may be no cost to you at all.
- Skilled Trades Are Badass, Plain and Simple — OK, do we really even need to elaborate? We don’t want to romanticize it or anything, because a lot of these trades are extremely physically demanding, but there is something pretty badass about getting to do things like climb wind turbines or fix airplanes every day. And if you’re just not the kind of person who wants to sit at a desk for hours on end, the skilled trades offer plenty of opportunity for working with your hands and being active.
- Skilled Trades Have Great Benefits — One of the coolest things about these trades is that most of their employees belong to unions. This means they’re represented by a labor organization that ensures that they get adequate pay and great benefits. Some examples of trade unions are the Teamsters (representing truck drivers, warehouse workers, and other trades) and the United Steelworkers (representing those who work in steel mills and related trades). Unions ensure that these workers get benefits such as health insurance, pensions, and paid leave.
Trade Up for a Trade Career
The bottom line is that, though women make up a small factor of the trade professions, these jobs are becoming ever more in demand to all genders. Offering lots of job security, plenty of pay potential, and great benefits, working in a skilled trade is a great career move for men and women alike.