Published November 19, 2019 by Forbes
Written by Mark C. Perna Forbes
Weld Like A Girl: A Millennial Woman’s Success In A Man’s World
In 2010, women made up just 4% of the welding workforce. Eight years later, that number that had only increased by 1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But a new generation of women welders is looking to change that statistic—and the face of the industry.
Megan is one such woman who found a career in a man’s profession. As a high school student, she didn’t set out to defy longstanding gender stereotypes. She just wanted to gain a lifelong, marketable skill in the high-demand field of welding. “My dad was very supportive of me learning a skill that most women don’t know and ‘back in the day’ wouldn’t even want to learn,” she says.
Unlike other manufacturing positions that can be sent offshore, welding is most often done on site. As a result, the welding industry in the U.S. is expected to grow 6% by 2026—and there aren’t enough skilled welders to meet demand.
While previous initiatives to attract women to the field focused on career benefits like high wages and job security, newer programs like Women Who Weld provide women-only training programs that make the craft accessible and affordable to an untapped female workforce.
Going against the flow
Megan first discovered her affinity for welding at Iowa’s Davenport West High School. “I love working with my hands, especially fabricating fascinating works of art and things people could use,” she says. She now works as a welder at John Deere Davenport Works. “When it comes to production welding, I can look at a Motor Grader passing by my house and proudly say, ‘I built that.’”
Though welding was a skilled and lucrative career, Megan knew it was an unusual choice for a young woman. “When I went to high school, society wasn’t really used to women welders. I’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles in this industry being a female and I’ve had to prove myself ten times as much as others, but that’s where I get some of my pride.”
Welding may have a male-dominated history, but things are changing. As one of the next generation of women welders, Megan is passing on her expertise. “The best thing for me is the changes I’ve seen in manufacturing, specifically welding, from when I first started to where we are now. I was one out of two women welders for a while at John Deere Davenport Works and I’m grateful to have helped train many more women welders in the past couple years.”
To other women looking to break into this field, Megan says, “put the work in and give it your all. There will be struggles, but don’t ever stop trying to be better than you were the day before. Try to be as independent as you can, because at the end of the day, you are your best friend. You’re going to have to prove yourself time and time again, but times are changing.”
A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either. “Ladies are much more welcomed into this trade than most people think, so don’t be afraid to jump in and show the guys how it’s done. I think they’re finally starting to realize how awesome we really are. Ha-ha!”