Experts agree: Gender equality in the workforce is a social and economic good. But the world is a long way off. Globally, less than half of women work, compared to nearly three-quarters of men. And for those who do, occupational inequality — from wage gaps to discrimination — persists.

For women who work in traditionally male-dominated fields, inequality is a part of the job. Reuters photographers all over the world interviewed women pioneering these paths — from a priest in Japan to a firefighter in Nicaragua — to find out what inequality looks like for them. View their empowering portraits and commentary below:

Shinto priest. Tokyo, Japan. | "People think being a Shinto priest is a man's profession. If you're a woman, they think you're a shrine maiden or a supplementary priestess. People don't know women Shinto priests exist, so they think we can't perform rituals. Once, after I finished performing jiichinsai (ground-breaking ceremony), I was asked, 'So, when is the priest coming?' When I first began working as a Shinto priest, because I was young and female, some people felt the blessing was different. They thought: 'I would have preferred your grandfather.' At first, I wore my grandfather's light green garment because I thought it's better to look like a man. But after a while I decided to be proud of the fact that I am a female priest and I began wearing a pink robe, like today. I thought I can be more confident if I stop thinking too much (about my gender)." —Tomoe Ichino, 40. | (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

Firefighter. Managua, Nicaragua. | "In my early days as a female firefighter, men, my teammates, thought that I would not last long due to the hard training. However, in practice I showed them that I am able to take on tasks at the same level as men. I think women must fight to break through in all areas, in the midst of the machismo that still persists in Nicaragua and in Hispanic countries." —Yolaina Chavez Talavera, 31. | (REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)

Gas station attendant. Caracas, Venezuela. | "No doubt this is a job initially intended for men, because you have to be standing on the street all your shift; it is dirty, greasy, and there is always a strong gasoline smell. I have to adapt the pants of my uniform because they are men's and make me look weird but I adore my work. My clients are like my relatives, they come here everyday and we chat for a couple of minutes while the tank is being filled. They come every day because they feel safer to be served by a woman. With the difficult situation that we have in Venezuela, having a job that covers your expenses is almost a luxury, but beyond that, I'm very proud of my job. I believe that now we, the women, have to be the warriors." —Yanis Reina, 30. | (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Skydiving instructor. Madrid, Spain. | "Men don't have to prove themselves like we do. We are tested every day. The instruction jobs still go mostly to men, whereas the administrative jobs go mostly to women." —Paloma Granero, 38. | (REUTERS/Susana Vera)

Cow breeder. Beurizot, France. | "Once I could not help laughing when an agricultural adviser asked me where the boss was when I was standing right in front of him. I can assure you that the meeting got very quickly cut short! Being a breeder is seen as a man's job. In the past women were usually doing the administrative work or low-level tasks. People need to be more open-minded. This change needs to happen everywhere not just on the fields." —Emilie Jeannin, 37 | (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

Mountaineering instructor. Tien Shan mountains, Kazakhstan. | "Physical strength benefits male colleagues in some situations on harder routes. But, women are more concentrated and meticulous. In general, women are better at teaching. My main professional task is to teach safe mountaineering." —Julia Argunova, 36 | (REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

Backhoe operator, Agusan del Sur, Philippines. | "There are a few female workers that can drive big trucks and backhoes. If men can do it, why can't women do it? I'm better than the men, they can only drive trucks here, but I can drive both." —Filipina Grace Ocol, 40 | (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Dock worker. Ashdod, Israel. | "In most of my professional life I did not face any inequality. In the port of Ashdod we are equal on the docks. I am the first woman who began working at the Ashdod port as a [dock worker]." —Liz Azoulay, 26. | (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Engine driver. Istanbul, Turkey. | "When I applied for a job 23 years ago as an engine driver, I was told that it is a profession for men. I knew that during the written examination even if I got the same results with a male candidate, he would have been chosen. That's why I worked hard to pass the exam with a very good result ahead of the male candidates. In my opinion, gender inequality starts in our minds saying it's a male profession or it's a men job." —Serpil Cigdem, 44. | (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

Plumber. Amman, Jordan. | "Housewives are more comfortable to have a woman plumber in their house in the absence of their husbands. To tackle gender inequality, I think that all operating sectors must provide equal opportunities for men and women in all fields and each woman must believe in her capabilities and skills that she has in order to convince the others." —Khawla Sheikh, 54 | (REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Tuk Tuk driver. Kathmandu, Nepal. | "There is no difference in a vehicle driven by a woman and man. While driving on the road people sometimes try to dominate a vehicle especially when they see a woman driving it. People have even used foul language toward me. When this happens I keep quiet and work even harder to prove that we are as capable as men." —Januka Shrestha, 25. | (REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)

Soldier. Nice, France. | "The parity in the army already exists, it is the uniform that takes precedence over gender." —Merylee, 26. | (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

Pilot. Moscow, Russia. | "Much more can be done by the women themselves to solve such problems (gender inequality)." —Maria Uvarovskaya | (REUTERS/Grigory Dukor)