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Welding as a woman: Using confidence, drive to succeed in male-dominated profession

WRITTEN BY Caitlyn Smith

It is always encouraging to hear about local women dominating a primarily male-driven field. Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a woman in the welding industry?  

Grace Gish is a 21-year-old full time welder based in Knoxville. She began as a marketing major at Pellissippi State Community College before discovering a passion for welding through the school’s welding club. 

“I wanted to be the student who was involved. So, I joined the welding club that consisted of three dudes and one woman named Candice, and from there, they showed me how to weld for the first time ever and how to use power tools. I knew I loved hands-on learning, but I didn’t know that I could fall in love with a trade so quickly,” Gish said. 

After a semester or two of learning about welding, Gish began working under a glass blowing artist to put her skills into practice. This job led to her exciting position at Arc Engineering. 

“With that job, I was able to learn and try new things that progressed me far enough to attain the job I have now. I work for a company called Arc Engineering, and we specialize in making plasma tables, powder coating ovens and a variety of odd jobs that come through the doors. That being said, I am the lead fabricator at my shop and am now able to take on the jobs and make a product that a customer can be happy with,” Gish said.

When it comes to working in a male-dominated world, Gish admits to behaving differently, but finds the experience exciting and beneficial overall. She emphasized placing yourself around the men that are encouraging and willing to help you.

“Being in a male-dominated field, you need to have somewhat of a thicker skin to last. Don’t let things get to you, or they will run right over you. All that being said, there are some fantastic men out there. I wouldn’t be writing this without the help from my male instructors, who believe women have the ability and should be shown off as welders,” Gish said.

“Because this field is male-dominated, I would make sure you search for the good men and let them teach you a thing or two. But, never let a chance to show them up go to waste. Gotta play ball in this field, and show them you deserve to be here.”

Luckily, there aren’t too many restrictions placed on Gish due to her being a woman. In fact, she believes her position as a woman gives her some advantage over the men. 

“I’m small, which means I can fit places that my six-foot-something boss can’t. Women also pay attention to the details more often than men. Use the things that are unique about being a woman and run with it,” Gish said.

Gish advises women considering work in trade to go for it and go in confidently.

“Just try it. For me, it was a two-year program, and I already had a job in my field by the second semester. What is there to lose by trying something that might just be the thing you needed? If you are gonna do a trade, come in with a confidence like no other and act like you deserve to be there just as much as the guys,” Gish said.