Women welders face many challenges. They face the stigma that being a welder and a woman is impossible. They sometimes face obstacles in the workplace when people consider them unable to do something simply because they are female. And sometimes they have trouble with male co-workers. Yet women are overcoming such obstacles daily, and thriving in the welding business. But there is one place that women welders are having trouble and it's an issue that has been ignored – personal protective equipment.
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that women make up less than 5 percent of the total welding population. With such a small amount of female welders, it really should come as no surprise that the majority of welding gear – from helmets to steel toe boots – is made for men. The designs are for men, the fit is for men, and women welders struggle to make the equipment work for them. Every welder likes to be able to show off their own style a little bit, usually through unique colors and styles on their helmets, but until recently female welders have been more concerned with just trying to make their gear fit.
Many women welders are used to rigging their protective equipment just so that it will stay on them while they work. They modify their leathers and jackets, add sweatbands to keep their helmets on, and some have even had to cut part of their gloves off just to make them fit their hands. It's difficult for women to find steel toe boots that will fit them yet it is dangerous to not have the boots when you work in the welding industry.
Finally, a few of the equipment manufacturers are beginning to listen to the requests of female welders. Revco Industries Inc. has released the AngelFire brand under its BSX line. These are welding gloves and jackets tailored to fit women. The company also has the Firefly line of GTAW gloves for women and they have the VelvetArc line, which are welding jackets that are designed especially for women. Lincoln has launched new gloves for women in its Red Line brand. Later this year, they are going to be launching a line of women's welding jackets.
Women welders want (and need) to be tough, but they also want to be women. Helmets are the perfect place to show a bit of personality, and Lincoln Electric has introduced the Amp Angel helmet, a black helmet with dark purples and pinks in an intricate design that is feminine yet certainly not girly. In fact, the design is even popular with men! 3M has released the Speedglas 100 series that are helmets for women in four designs and that can be adjusted to fit.
Another benefit of having gear that is designed for women? It could very likely attract more women to the industry. More welders are needed and companies are always looking for more welders, so it's an excellent way to get the interest of women. Women are good at repetitive tasks and have excellent hand-eye coordination, so they make good welders. Having more women welders is sure to be a boost to the industry.