My name is Jennifer Simpson. I recently earned my MFA in creative writing–specifically creative non-fiction– from the University of New Mexico. I’m currently working on a memoir, “Reconstructing My Mother” which follows me on my journey to learn more about my mother–who died when I was 13–and my journey to learn more about myself.
Until recently I worked for a company that sells welding accessories. Invariably when someone called in to place an order, he– I use the gender specific pronoun because most welders are in fact male–he would make assumptions: that I was the owner’s wife, maybe the bookkeeper, or the cleaning lady (not really, but close).
The fact is that only 6% of welders are women. That’s right, 6 % (and that number may in fact be falling).
UPDATE: Monica Pfarr from the American Welding Society reports that only 2% of welders are women!
I came of age just after the Civil Rights Movement, and the forming of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Title IX, the 1972 amendment which mandated gender equality in education (most people equate this with funding for sports). And while TECHNICALLY my junior high school offered all the same opportunities to men and women, in actuality they did not. I signed up for shop class. I wanted to learn to MAKE things, saw some wood, hammer, maybe do some welding, bend some metal. It looked fun. My counselor had other ideas, however, and he counseled me OUT of shop class and IN to Home Economics. “All the girls are taking home ec,” he said. “You don’t want to be in a class with a bunch of BOYS do you?” he asked, and I was too intimidated to tell him how I really felt–that HELL YES, that sounded fun too! and I didn’t know about Title IX either.
I didn’t learn how to saw anything or weld stuff. But don’t worry I can cook a casserole or make a jello mold like nobody’s business. And if you ever find yourself in need of a wrap around skirt… I got you covered.
So back to this blog. Why?
When I worked at the above mentioned company I also founded the company’s two blogs (the first two in the welding industry), one of which focused on women welders. Heck google “women welders” and twenty bucks says my old blog comes up: CarmenElectrode.com. On the Carmen Electrode blog I made it a point to feature women in welding. I even created a regular segment titled “The New Rosies” where I would profile some of the amazing women welders, some of those 2% , those who have defied the odds, gone against preconceived notions of what kind of work is suitable to women (all kinds), and what kind of women weld (all kinds). I became fascinated. And inspired!
On the one hand we have this iconic image, Rosie the Riveter, an image that has been used to symbolize equality, especially for women. But like many things in life, the image doesn’t live up to the reality.
Searching For Rosie, documents my investigation into why…
Why don’t women go into welding?
Why do some women defy the stereotype?
Why don’t more women go into welding as a career?
- Good welders are skilled craftspeople that can make decent money.
- In 2006 the American Welding Society projected a shortage of about 200,000 welders by 2010 –and while the current state of the economy may have something to do with the fact that that shortage has not manifested itself, once the ole US of A manufacturing is cranked up again, we may indeed find that the economy forced many skilled welders into early retirement, leaving opportunities– opportunities for men and WOMEN!
What is it about the women who do? Do they face discrimination? from co-workers? from other women? How did they even KNOW that welding was a career option?
If you know of any women welders who would be interested in being interviewed, SHARE YOUR STORY with me. And thanks for stopping by!