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Women in Welding

Jul 23, 2021 ·
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It’s not uncommon for female students studying the skilled trades to be one of just a few women in the classroom. Even though these fields — including welding — tend to be male dominated, there are plenty of strong women paving the way for their counterparts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3.8% of welding, soldering and brazing workers were women in 2020. The welding industry is also growing — it’s expected that there will be more than 452,000 welding positions nationally by 2029.50

This means there are plenty of opportunities for women interested in the welding industry. Keep reading to find out about some of the history of female welders in the United States, and to hear from a female Universal Technical Institute (UTI) Welding program graduate.

History of Female Welders

During World War II, a workforce revolution took place in the U.S. When men went to war, there were a lot of open positions that women stepped up to fill. They moved from more domestic work to enter the workforce, most notably the skilled trades.

The workforce saw an increase in women across all industries, and by 1943 they made up 65% of the labor force! This growth was spearheaded by the advertising campaign featuring “Rosie the Riveter.” It became one of the most iconic images of women working during the war.

While women were working across a range of trade industries, opportunities opened for them to weld. They handled many responsibilities and jobs in steel factories. An issue of Life magazine from 1943 even featured an image of a female welder on its cover.

Women welders helped build ships, equipment, aircraft and weapons needed by the troops. They worked hard to ensure parts and supplies were manufactured.

Women mostly returned to traditional roles once men returned home from war, but the movement shifted attitudes about working women and their impact on society. The strong women who entered the workforce during WWII helped pave a new path!

In the ensuing decades, women have continued to show their capabilities in all kinds of roles, and there are many opportunities for women who weld right now — like UTI grad Emily Woosley, who shares how her experience went.

Emily Woosley: Working Hard to Pursue a Passion

As the second of four daughters, Emily Woosley (or Em Wooz, for short!) describes herself as always being an inquisitive, rebellious tomboy. It was a combination of these personality traits and life events that led her to enroll in the Welding program at UTI.

Em gave birth to her son, Adonis, while in high school — an experience she says helped “shape and create my life.” True to her hardworking nature, she transferred to an accelerated high school and earned her diploma a year ahead of her graduating class.

Em earned her license in massage therapy a year later, but decided it wasn’t the path for her. She worked in various retail and customer service jobs to help pay student loans and purchase a house in Phoenix, Arizona.

It wasn’t until she married her best friend in 2017 and moved to Avondale, Arizona, that Em was able to think about going back to school to pursue a passion.

She says the support and encouragement she received from her husband, Chris, helped her through the process, along with her son starting high school. “I felt confident to take the leap,” she says about enrolling at UTI, which she did during the week of Thanksgiving in 2019.

Always Inspired

Em says she has always been around talented, passionate people who were an inspiration for gaining a thorough understanding of something, while at the same time “deeply respecting that there is always more to learn or improve on.”

“I remember being little and loving the ‘fireworks’ in the shop and watching home projects unfold and transform right in from of me,” Em says. “I wanted to be a part of it. I loved getting my hands dirty with my families and partner on projects or restore/remodels, etc.”

After moving to Avondale, Em continued researching different welding options and discovered that a UTI campus was right down the street. “Your marketing is on point, and my tour of the campus was really fun,” she adds.

Handling the Unexpected

Like so many other students enrolled in UTI programs during 2020, Em had to face several challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Until then, she says UTI was able to offer what she enjoyed and expected. A highlight was making lifelong friends from her training group, who Em says “were the unapologetic personalities, making jokes in the back of class and looking out for each other.”

She says she “loves and appreciates the connections and networking” that she was able to have from her time at UTI, despite all the changes that needed to be made amid COVID-19.

A lot of individual training, attention and demonstrations were paused as classwork transitioned online, which was an adjustment for kinesthetic learners like herself.

“We pushed through — as the resilience of passionate people will attest to — time and time again,” Em says.

Entering the Workforce

Em graduated from UTI in September 2020 and briefly worked as shop help operating cranes and forklifts at a structural steel company in El Mirage.

“It was good exposure to the shop aspect, but I wanted to weld, and I missed it so much. When I started looking, I wanted a different atmosphere,” she says.

Em eventually went to work for All Things Metal in Phoenix, a job she says she “loved immediately.”

Even though the environment was different, she says she feels like the transition was smooth for her.

“A really cool part of the team there is that not only do we fabricate and make the pieces needed, but we erect and install everything as well,” Em says. “I love that we get to see everything through from start to finish.”

A typical day has Em waking up early and seeing the sunrise, then getting to work!

One of her favorite things about her job in the welding industry is the ability to work on new things every day. “Whether it’s welding stairs, leveling rails, erecting beams, fabricating — you’re a part of something bigger and literally watch it transform. You learn and improve consistently,” she says.

At the end of the day, Em says she rolls up her equipment feeling good about what she “put her name on,” and that she always has something to take away for next time.

As far as balancing work and life as a mom, she says it took her passing on night shifts offered by previous companies and figuring out what worked for her.

“I’m able to have a work-life balance with a consistent schedule and early hours,” Em says.

Words of Advice

Em is a great example of what hard work and dedication can accomplish — and what pursuing a passion looks like.

Given that the industry is predominately male, it’s important that women feel motivated and encouraged once they’ve decided to pursue a career in welding.

When asked about challenges she’s faced as a woman in the industry, Em responds, “You are going to be underestimated. You are going to be judged. You are going to hear opinions you don’t agree with — none of these things have anything to do with you. That is other people’s insecurities being projected your way.”

Em has a lot of great advice to give women who are thinking about following the same career path as her. “To be successful means you will be doubted and tested — just keep going,” she says.

“Remember that someone who will have your back is not far to find. Also, be one of those people. And be loud about what’s important,” Em continues.

These are just a few great reminders from a UTI grad making her way in the welding industry. And there’s more to come.

Em shares that she would love to own her own land and build on the property with her family, expanding on their hobbies and skill with wood and metal work.

She adds, “I’d be in paradise to do custom projects eventually,” Em adds. “(I) definitely want to get into more creative design and art.”

With the skills she learned at UTI, Em has been able to secure a job she enjoys and is on the path to fulfilling more of her goals in the future.6

Opportunities for Women in Welding

Em’s story is just one example of how welding can be a great way to go for women looking for a new career path.

Employers are looking for skilled welders who have the hands-on experience and training needed to work in a range of environments. Welders can work in a number of industries that include:

Since there are so few female welders, training and working on the job can be an opportunity to form bonds with other women in the field. Pursuing a career in welding also can give you the chance to help encourage other women to join the industry and show it can be done.

A training program like UTI’s Welding Technology program can help give women the skills they need to feel confident entering the workforce after graduation. You can prepare for an in-demand job as an entry-level welder.

Prepare for the Welding Industry at UTI

Offered at eight campuses nationwide (including Austin, Texas, which is opening early 2022), UTI’s Welding program covers four of the major arc welding processes.

Learning gas metal arc welding (GMAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) can help prepare students for the industry by teaching some of the most commonly used methods.

Interested in learning more? Request information here, or call 1-800-834-7308.

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By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI's Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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