The median salary for male cosmetologists is $39,100, according to the Georgetown center; for women, it’s $24,700.
Students who break with gender norms are often following family members into a trade. Brandon Harris, 19, the only man in the nurses’ aide course, has a mother and aunt who are nurses. Channa Cassell, 18, one of three women in the morning welding course, has welding in her blood: Her father, uncle, and grandfather are all welders. Even so, her family was “a little shocked” when she announced that she would follow in their footsteps.
Parents often discourage their daughters from going into welding, seeing it as “dark, dirty, and dangerous,” said Monica Pfarr, the executive director of the American Welding Society Foundation. In an effort to change that image, the foundation has started sending a tractor-trailer truck to state fairs with an exhibit inside promoting the highly technical, well-paying jobs available to welders. The trailer gets 28,000 visitors a year, she says.
In west Georgia, the community college and local employers recently tried another tack, holding an open house for aspiring tradeswomen. Carroll County, where the college is located, will need to produce 4,000 more graduates of all kinds by 2020 to meet employer demand, and it won’t get to that goal without women, said Donna Armstrong-Lackey, the senior vice president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re trying to take away the element of fear that they’re not qualified, or don’t have the strength,” to do traditionally male jobs, Armstrong-Lackey said at the open house.
But it can be a tough sell. When Armstrong-Lackey asked one petite young woman if she was considering a career in welding, the woman quickly responded, “I’m too little.”
Armstrong-Lackey told the woman that her own daughter “is your same size and she’s getting a welding certificate.” She urged: “Don’t discount it.”
Across the hall, Nikki Bond, 32, was chatting with the West Georgia Technical alumna Andrea Laminack, 39, about what it’s like to be a woman welder. Bond, a mother of three, had already registered for the certificate program in welding, but was nervous and seeking reassurance.
Laminack, who is pregnant and has a 14-year-old daughter, told her there will be challenges, but to focus on her love of the work.
She said she was picked on by male colleagues when she started her job. They’d leave notes on her welds with insults such as “ugly,” and “due in 2020,” a reference to what they considered her slow pace.
“I had to grow a thicker skin, but I’m providing well for my family,” she said. “The money keeps me from running away.”
This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.