Women Welders in the Workplace

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Carmen Electrode's Facebook profileGot an interesting inquiry through my Facebook page (how many of you are on Facebook?  if you are as crazy addicted as I am, go ahead and Friend Me!)

Anyway, a young Canadian Welder named Jen writes:

I’m a welder as well and would love to talk to other female welders , I’m interested in knowing why women have such a hard time getting work in the trades and also to know how women feel working on job sites and if they feel as thou they are sex objects.

Took me awhile to compose an answer.  It’s always hard for me to admit that I myself do not weld.  While my job at Arc-Zone.com (in sales and marketing) does not require me to weld, I do need to understand the industry, the products and listen to the concerns of people in the industry.  And let me tell you, fabricators are an interesting group of people (more on that later).

Also, I’m not sure I agree with her. Maybe I’m a bit of a pollyanna, or maybe I’m naive (you can tell me what you think). And so, here is my reply:

First off, I myself am not a welder..   I write about welders for my job and have taken a special interest in women welders, as I am a woman.

I’m not sure I agree with you regarding women having a  hard time getting work in the trades.  I do believe that it may be perception more than reality and the effects of culture.  What I mean by that is that we women do not grow up around the trades (for the most part) so it is not part of our cultural lexicon–  we don’t necessarily understand HOW to start out and because we are women people don’t think to educate us in that arena. Does that make sense?

As far as feeling like a sex object. I’ve interviewed several woman that simply won’t tolerate that and if they can’t squash it themselves, and management is unresponsive, they leave and get a different job.
Check out some of the interviews I’ve done with women welders–>

And along the lines of that same topic, read Weld/Blog Like a Girl–>

and

TIPS for women in the Welding Industry–>

So what’s your take? Am I naive?  A polyanna?   What advice would you offer Jen in Canada?

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11 comments on “Women Welders in the Workplace”:

  1. marisa

    Hi Jen. My name is Marisa, I’m a 28 year old Boilermaker Welder. For me, finding work isn’t hard since we are union, and really, I do feel like a sex object in the eyes of some of these idiots I’ve worked around, especially since, I don’t exactly fit the image of a female construction worker, I’m 5’3 and I weigh 120lbs. But one thing I’ve learned, is to work harder than any of them out on the job. Not just to eliminate the sex object part, but also the prejudice part. They expect women workers to be slow and lazy, but as a woman I’ve had to break that misconception. I’ve also been told, that although women make good welders, they don’t make good Riggers because we’re small, well I said, “Go F&@$ yourself”, so now, I’ve made it a point to want to best rigger possible. I also say, congratulations to you and any other woman out there who decides to break the stereotype of female tradewomen!!!

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    1. Carmen Post author

      Thanks! I appreciate you stopping by. That totally stinks that even today there are men out there who don’t know better. Thankfully its not all of them. My boss is awesome, for example. Together we can all work to break the stereotypes that are out there… they are just not serving us.

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  2. Kyle

    Hi, my name is Kyle and I am a 27 year old female welder. I work mostly in process piping, but have done everything from ammonia system installs to oil field repair. I guess I have been lucky because I have had very few problems with men in the trades. I find most men are impressed that a girl can do the same job they can, and are more than willing to help me succeed. I might be a Pollyanna too, but I agree with your response to the welder in Canada. As a girl, I did grow up around the trades so it was natural for me to begin working in the welding industry. I have never had difficulty finding work, and have always found the companies I work for hire me for my ability, and expect the same work quality from me as they would from a man. I know that there are those who are biased toward women, but my experience has been that those people are the exception, not the rule, and often times they are not very successful because not only do they have a “better than you” attitude around women, but also around other men who just don’t want to have to put up with an A@#hole on the crew all the time. I also believe that there is a misconception about men acting protective towards women. When I first started I was so keen to prove myself that I was offended if a man tried to me help. I felt like he was insinuating that I couldn’t do my job, but over the years I have formed a new opinion. Yes, men do sometimes act protective over me, not because they think I am incapable of doing the task assigned to me, but because they are genuinely concerned about my well being. They are men and being protecting women is in their DNA, not to mention that they have more than likely had a lifetime of training to open our doors, carry our heavy grocery sacks, ect. Don’t get me wrong, there are men out there with the attitude of “here let me help you with that little girl, your obviously incapable of getting it yourself, ” but again for me they have been the exception.
    As for feeling like a sex object, at 5’6″ 155 lbs and reasonably cute, yes there are some things I have to deal with, but again these are men, and again lewdness and perverts have been the exception for me. I am sure this is because I have always worked with crews that would not allow any such behavior to go on for very long. I have been in this business long enough to pretty well have the routine down pat: week 1 at a new job site: I will meet and be asked out by just about every guy there, week 2: the “lookie loos” begin making their walk thrus, walking by my work area every chance they get until I run them off, week 3: the crew I work with, gentlemen that they are, go out to the port-o-let and paint over all of the graffiti about who wants to do what to the Lady Welder, and week 4: if there is anyone who hasn’t gotten the idea the crew explains to them in no uncertain terms that that behavior will not be tolerated.
    From my personal experience I would say women should expect the best from a career in skilled trades rather than the worst, which seems to be what most women are told they should expect. Yes, you will have to work harder than most of the men, but I think if you are a girl that wants to be in the trades you will do that anyway. I find welding to be a fun and challenging career that gives me room to learn and grow constantly. Personally I think that there is too much emphasis placed on the negative aspects of the business where women are concerned. Sure there are going to be some bad apples in the bunch, but that is just human nature. I have found most people in the welding field to be innovative, resourceful, and thoughtful people who enjoy what they do and respect people based on their abilities rather than race, gender, ect. I have worked in a few other fields than the trades and I would never want to do it again. As a welder I get to go to work everyday and love what I do and the people I work with, and I never felt that way about the group of women I worked as a secretary in college. The men I work with are funny, patient, and have the wonderful ability to find the good in even the toughest situations, and that is an attitude that I feel blessed to have been taught by the men in the trades.

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  3. Mishawn Kampsula

    Well, how cool is this? We are a dying breed ladies for sure. My name is Mishawn and Im 29. Im a cabinetmaker/finishing carpenter/custom fabricator/MIG TIG Stick Flux Core/ bullshit machinist. I completed an indentured apprenticeship in New Jersey. Anyway I now live in Houston Texas because i wanted to check out the underwater welding, after finding out the bad points decided against it. Anyway. …..

    My favorite day is the first day on a new job, offsite, or brandy new shop. Long story short If your work is badass immediatly you have respect from your guys. Yes there are hard dicks walkin around. Depends on the situation. Im different (But i bet we all are anyway haha) i get right in it and cut up. But i do not take out right disrespect. I have been so upset i have come home and cried. DO NOT LET SOMEONE ELSE MAKE YOU QUIT EVER. Keep on Burnin and makin just a little less than the guys….kidding.

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  4. Obi Evelyn

    want know more about welding because i am interested.

    1. The benefit of training a welder

    2. The reason while a female welder should be training

    3. The important of training a female welder

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  5. Fallan Lowder

    im 18 years old and i take welding at my high school in louisiana. i never thought much of it when i tried it my freshmen year, but my ag teacher bugged me untill my jr year to take welding one so i did. it turns out that i just had a natural nack for it. i competed in my first comption last year and beat the boys in my team who had been welding for 2 years myself only 6 months. i went on to area and got 5th out of 50 boys the only thing that held me from trying state was that i dint know horizontal yet, but my open grove vertical rocked. im now in welding 2 and a absolutly love it the guys around the shop are a pain sometimes but mr ob never treats me any differnt and is always helping me move forward. im now trying over head and i am one of the top welders in the class. ive been thinking about doing my seinor project on women welders so if yall could send me any information that would be sweet! lowders5@yahoo.com

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  6. Andrea

    I love welding and I am darn good at it. I am 28yr old African American woman welder. Which is unique here just finished college majoring in Industrial welding. Wow I am so happy recieved all of my certs now off to the world to weld. In about 6 months i will be ready to rig weld which pays 52 bucks an hour here.$$$$$ What a great trade

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  7. lashanna

    I am a 29 year old Black Ethiopian American woman… I am a certified welder in four process, I’m usually the best welder on the job ,, but one thing I don’t like is I’m not making the money I desire… Ccurrently I’m in the iorn workers union Sacramento CA,,, Any job recomendations?

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  8. KAREN

    I am 53 years old and I got my certification in welding in 1982. I graduated at the top of my all male class.I have yet to meet any other women welders in the Houston area. I’ve welded for 26 years before it started taking a toll on my eyes. Being Blue collar, Black and Female needless to say I’ve gone through hell, I got my hand broken with a 50lbs sledge hammer, then got hit in the head with a 2 ton ibeam then got knocked off 3 story scafgoling because of it. The men on the job had a bet sheet to see how long I would last on the job. Over the years and in the end I finally got my respect as a welder. My history as a black woman welder is too long to put on here. If anyone would like to know more I would be more that ecstatic to talk to you…I use to brag to my supervisor that I’m the best. In fact I beat out all his so call top men welders. It wasn’t to gloat but to let men know I’m not to be messed with when it came to my craft.

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