Barbie the Welder

#WomenofSteel interview with Barbie Parsons

Barbie the Welder

How did you first get involved with the industry?

I saw a woman welding giant wings in the movie Cast Away, with Tom Hanks and something about it spoke to my soul. I knew then that I needed to be a metal sculptor.

What education programs did you take?

I went to a local adult education program for BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services). It was a six-month program that totaled 104 hours of training. BOCES is a vocational school for adults to learn how to weld.

What has been one of your favourite experiences or memories in the industry?

Learning how to fabricate was huge for me. It was such an empowering feeling to see something and fi gure out how to do it. That was while I was working at the job where I was a metal sculptor and even on a daily basis doing what I do; It’s a pretty empowering feeling.

What is your favourite thing about working in the industry?

The brotherhood and sisterhood in the industry. As big as the world is, and the sheer variety of jobs in the welding industry; it’s still a close-knit family.

Can you give us a fun fact about yourself?

I have two different coloured eyes. My one eye has a big spot of brown, but I have green eyes.

As a woman in the trades, did you face any discrimination?

Not in welding. My background before I was a welder, was being an auto mechanic. I don’t know if it was my age or inability to understand how to handle a situation correctly, I dealt with a tremendous amount of discrimination in auto mechanics. In welding, I did not. I just assumed the welding industry was different. Last year, I went out to Phoenix to work on an all-girls frame up restoration of a 1957 Chevy pickup truck where I met other women welders and found that my experience was unique and a lot of them did in fact deal with a lot of sexism and just general problems in the industry. I found that I was very blessed to have found the shop that I worked in and that the people that I worked with treated me like an equal.

As time goes on, do you find that employers are more open to hiring women?

I can say that I feel through social media and more women seeing women in the trades, they’re saying, “I can too” and “if she can do it, I can do it.”

What would your message be to women wanting to get into the trades?

If I can do it, anyone can. My message would be that welding is such a fantastic career option just because of the variety of jobs that are available. You’re not just a welder; there are so many different aspects of welding whether it’s smaller weldments or more substantial pieces. You can be an underwater welder, a pipeliner, a boilermaker, etc. It’s such an empowering feeling to take a material that is as hard as metal and to be able to shape and form it to your will.

 

Photo's:

1. The Angel Of Sorrow, my first masterpiece sculpture and a defining moment in my life. As a self-taught artist I had never done anything remotely close to this kind of sculpture and my client took it on faith that I was capable.