Booming Demand: Women in Skilled Trades (WIST)  
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TULSA, Oklahoma (WOMENSENEWS)—Women have always played a vital, hands-on role in shaping human progress, but until recently, this half of the population has often been overlooked and underestimated by industries that need skilled labor.

Men still represent the majority of welders, electricians and other skilled workers. But thanks to a combination of social progress and serious labor demand, there is promise that this inequality will change.

Check out the infographic right, developed by the Tulsa Welding School, to learn more about the benefits the skilled trades offer women.

Modern women still make 16 cents less than their male counterparts who perform the same jobs, the Pew Research Center reported in 2015.

To make matters worse, the industries that attract the most women are also the ones that pay the least.

Female-dominated career fields, such as childcare and bookkeeping, don’t offer the same financial opportunities as many male-dominated ones. As women fight to receive equal pay, some are seeking out professions with higher earning potential.

More sobering research: when women enter fields dominated by men their pay drops.

However, you don’t find the building trades in Fortune’s 2015 listing of the top 20 jobs with the widest pay gaps so there is hope these gaps won’t emerge as women join them at a time of rising awareness of pay disparity.

Women want better jobs and the skilled trades need more trained workers; two reasons that support closing the gender gap in these industries.

According to Business Insider, demand for welding and other skilled work is skyrocketing. By 2024, up to 400,000 welding positions may be vacant, waiting for skilled workers to fill them. The construction and manufacturing industries cannot afford to limit their applicants to half of the population; they need as many skilled workers as they can get.

The average welder is 55 years old, so it’s never too late for a woman to increase her earning potential. Aspiring female entrepreneurs could find a warmer welcome in the skilled trades, too; the construction industry has the second-highest rate of self-employment.

Once a non-traditional career path for women, skilled work could now be an ideal option for women who want to make a mid-life career switch. As current welders and other tradespeople continue to retire, demand will only rise.