I was reminded of reader demographics of our publications when a co-worker pulled out a letter from a reader that she had kept since 2001. She had placed it on a bulletin board, intending everyone to have a laugh, but I'm still somewhat taken aback by it. Here's a snippet of the letter:
"It seemed strange that a magazine devoted exclusively to welding couldn't spell the name of a person that does the welding, a weldor! But then I noticed that your magazine was run by a woman.
"Women should stay in their homes and attend to their sewing and toilet cleaning like God invented them to do. They have no business bungling everything up by meddling, interfering, and intruding in the workplace of men."
Wow. I laughed when I saw the letter again, but I admit that I didn't laugh the first time I saw it several years ago. I was stunned.
The letter writer is definitely old-school. He used an electric typewriter to compose the letter and has referred to computers as "television typewriting things" in other letters. Yep, he's a great communicator.
But just as the method of letter construction is old-school, so is the thinking. Frankly, it does the manufacturing industry no good.
Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that women make up about 30 percent of the overall manufacturing employment ranks. Apparently, someone else is in charge of toilet cleaning in their homes while they are out earning a paycheck.
Practical Welding Today recently ran a story on personal protective equipment that is specifically designed for female welders. In a future issue, subscribers will get to read about a young woman who worked her way through welding school while supporting a child and is now a respected welding instructor. You simply can't deny that women are a permanent part of the manufacturing landscape and likely will grow in importance as people of both genders compete for high-quality jobs that demand high skill sets.
In a conversation I had this summer with Barbara M. Fossum, the first female president of the 78-year-old Society of Manufacturing Engineers, she told me that she had supportive parents who encouraged her to follow her interests, which eventually led to a degree in physics and a career in manufacturing. However, along the way, she ran into some Neanderthals that didn't make being a female in a male-dominated industry easy.
"The young men are definitely a deterrent to young women entering these STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields. They don't change as they get older," Fossum said.
That's a shame because those same fields need talented people. Welding is no different.