Women are drastically underrepresented in the skilled trades, and it's hurting them financially. Consider these facts:

- Women make up just 4.7 percent of workers in natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations1

- Female underrepresentation in the skilled trades is a major contributor to the fact that women earn less than men2

- In 2014, women earned 79 cents on the dollar compared to what men earned3

Boosting female salaries will require attracting more young women to skilled trade occupations. Here are three ways that career colleges can increase young women's awareness of the opportunities presented by careers in skilled trades.

Market to Young Female Audiences

A first step toward boosting awareness is connecting with young female audiences. Consider volunteering to speak to organizations that work with young women. For instance, the Girl Scouts solicit volunteers to participate in programs that promote female career advancement, such as the Image STEM program, which encourages young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.4 The mentoring organization My Girlfriend's House sponsors the Girl Boss Leadership Academy, which trains teenage girls in the concepts of leadership and self-development, using programs and special projects to develop hands-on skills.5

Discuss Earning Expectations

When addressing young female audiences, one way to get them to start considering a career in the skilled trades is to discuss what they can expect to earn from different occupations. For instance, in 2013, secretaries, one of the three most popular professions among women, earned a median salary of $677 a week, while electricians, a profession where almost all workers are men, earned $952 a week.6 Nursing aides, another occupation popular with women, earned $452 a week, while automotive technicians earned $714 a week.

In general, male-dominated professions paid more than female-dominated professions, making getting more women into traditionally male professions an essential part of closing the gender wage gap.6 Pointing out examples of skilled trades that have higher earning expectations than traditionally female professions can help make these career options more attractive to young women. For example, Danny Wilson was able to start a carpentry career earning $20 an hour after graduating from the Fort Hayes Career Center, nearly double what she would have made if she'd gone into a vocational school to study a field such as study cosmetology or early-childhood development.7

Connect Young Women With Mentors in the Trades

The benefits of mentorship are well-known, and chief among them is this: It affords people the opportunity to create a brighter future for themselves. Young women who are interested in the trades but don't know how to go about pursuing that type of career can benefit by talking to women already working in the field. Career colleges can connect these interested young women with female mentors.

How? Talk to local companies about setting up a mentorship program that would connect young women with their female employees who work in the trades. The benefit of one woman discussing her own journey and experience with a young woman who is interested in pursuing the same career path is without parallel.

For further resources about setting up a mentorship program for young women, visit Step Up.

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) Bureau of Labor Statistics (2) Chicago Tribune (3) ThinkProgress (4) Girl Scouts (5) My Girlfriend's House (6) Institute for Women's Policy Research (7) WOSU (8) The Hechinger Report (9) Women Building Futures