Too many girls in Wales are still being steered into traditional women's work, claims an equal opportunities report.
Girls need more help to take up skilled trades, the report claims
They are denied better job prospects because they lack all-round careers advice, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
The organisation claims working roles in Wales are more based on a person's gender than anywhere else in Britain.
It is calling for school pupils to have the chance of work experience in jobs that challenge sexual stereotypes.
The report said that, with a few exceptions, young people in Wales were still being channelled into jobs which are seen as appropriate to their gender.
It said three-quarters of Welsh women were still working in low-paid jobs in cleaning, caring, catering, clerical work and customer services, while men dominated in better-paid trades and in engineering.
Exceptions for women graduates include careers in medicine, accountancy or law, the EOC said.
Otherwise, career choices for girls in Wales were still governed by traditional notions of men's work and women's work.
Julia Zeal, 32, from Newport, has begun retraining as a plumber on Coleg Gwent's women-only course, after leaving research and development in the chemical industry.
"When I left school, going into construction wasn't an option. I think probably it was something I would have liked to have done," she said.
"A lot stems from careers teachers, they're the people who need to get their act together and give better advice about what the options are.
"They obviously steer women in one direction, like nursing, and men in the other - it's still like that.
"In terms of modern apprenticeships, it should be far more open to woman than it is at the moment."
She added: "There are a lot of stereotypes when you're out there, you see it all the time."
The EOC report said work-role segregation by gender was particularly acute in small and medium-sized firms, with people from black and ethnic minorities, those with disabilities and Welsh speakers even more likely to be in sex-segregated jobs.
The commission said all school pupils should have a careers interview to promote non-traditional work opportunities, as well as the chance of work experience in sectors where jobs were traditionally done by the opposite sex.
Neil Wooding, EOC Commissioner for Wales, said: "Our research shows young people are unable to make genuine career choices and employers are unable to take best advantage of the talent available.
"As a result, major skills shortages will continue to blight business and damage the economy in Wales. Tackling the barriers is an urgent priority."
Jenny Hunter, coordinator of Cardiff-based mentoring project Jive, which helps women in apprenticeships in science, engineering, technology and construction, said the attitude in the male-dominated construction industry "still leaves a lot to be desired".