A group of Kansas women is breaking career stereotypes.
Butler Community College currently has three females enrolled in its welding program.
“It’s very uncommon to have three,” said Lead Welding Instructor Matthew Galbraith. “These gals are very intelligent. They are very driven, very focused. They are tough.”
Each of the women chose welding for different reasons.
“I just always wanted to try it. I went into the medical program and realized it really wasn’t for me and I wanted to try something more hands on and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Amy Crain, 25.
“I figured it was something I could do. I kind of watched people do it and said ‘well, it’s two semesters, it’s a year long, get certifications and I make quite a bit more than what I was, so let’s do it!'” said Shelby White, 28.
“I’m not really good at anything, so I needed to really find that so that’s why I’m here,” said Kristin Mallon, 24.
Crain, White and Mallon said they’ve never felt like outcasts in the male-dominated class. They told KSN they see themselves as equals.
“I’ve always been one of the boys, so it’s not any different,” Crain laughed.
“Everyone playing jokes on each other, you know, pretty much competing on who has the prettiest welds so really, pretty fun.” White said.
“They’re a pain in the butt, but you know I tolerate them.” Mallon snickered.
“I don’t think it could be a better fit. The guys embrace them. They embrace the guys. I think they brought comradery to a whole new level. They fit like a glove, I think,” Galbraith said.
Mallon, like the other two women, said welding has given her a feeling of purpose.
“It’s amazing. It’s heartwarming. Everyday, I wake up happy now, you know. It wasn’t like this before,” she said. “I was really down on myself, but I found welding and it’s a whole new world.”
While each of the women have different goals following graduation, they all agree on one thing: women can weld.
“Just go for it. Most girls are better welders than boys anyway,” Crain said.
“Some really, really good welders are women,” White said.
“Don’t give up. There is always something you’re going to be good at even if it takes you 24 years to find it, you’re going to be good at something,” Mallon said.
The welding instructor has been at the college for 19 years. He told KSN he initially got interested in the field after his mom became a welder during World War II.