Welding is still a man's world, say Gale Tierney and Jennifer Delikowski, but the two women have forged a path for themselves into that world.
Women make up about 47 percent of the country's workforce, but only 27 percent of personnel in manufacturing, according to the national trade group Women in Manufacturing. As manufacturers, including those in central Wisconsin, face a declining labor pool, some are looking to bring more women into their ranks.
There's increasing demand for welders, machinists and other manufacturing roles state-wide, especially as baby boomers retire. And trade groups want to prime women as well as younger and younger students to fill those roles.
Tierney and Delikowski work together as welders at Imperial Industries, Inc. in the central Wisconsin village of Rothschild. Tierney thinks of them as pioneers. When she started that welding job 16 years ago, she said, the company had to install a women's bathroom for her to use.
"I wanted girls and boys both to see that they can do anything they want to do," Delikowski said. "A girl can become a welder. A boy can become a baker."