Shanen Aranmor, of Yuma, AZ, has dual passions for welding and teaching, so a few years ago she decided to combine them to form Weld Like a Girl, a company that promotes women empowerment through the act of welding. The idea for the organization came to her when she was a college professor for wellness and psychology at Arizona Western College (AWC).
“I was constantly looking for ways that students could connect with their stress but not in a formal book-like way,” said Aranmor. She herself had started blacksmithing as a hobby and found hitting hot steel with a hammer to be therapeutic. Welding classes at AWC soon followed. “Welding is the full fusion of metals joined together, typically using heat or force…Blacksmithing is a[n] old-school art where one shapes metal using heat from a forge,” said Aranmor, comparing the relatively new science of arc welding with the ancient art of blacksmithing. “Blacksmithing is more likely to be used to shape and bend metal…and is now typically done for decorative or wrought-iron pieces.”
As her skill and enthusiasm for welding grew, Aranmor reflected on women’s place in the world of welding. “Welding is traditionally thought of as ‘man’s work,’ despite the very talented women welders who built our military tanks, airplanes, ships and other important tools for World War II.” Inspired by their example, in 2011 Aranmor took a job as a Welder Training Specialist at Miller Electric, one of the top welding manufacturing companies in the nation. But she still dreamed of opening her own business offering welding workshops to empower young women. So last April she created Weld Like a Girl, a safe, inviting environment for girls and women to overcome their fears and exercise their creativity by engaging in some good, old-fashioned welding.
“One of the aspects that makes welding so empowering to girls and women is that we are often told we cannot (or should not) do this, either due to our size, intellect or physical ability,” said Arnamor. “Once we prove to ourselves we actually can do what might have seemed impossible, the sky is the limit as far as what’s next…you then ask yourself, ‘What else can I do that I didn’t think I could?’”
That sense of self-affirmation was evident at a recent Weld Like a Girl Workshop attended by 17 women receiving treatment at a California drug rehabilitation center. The women participated in a 5-hour session where they learned to cut and weld steel in the process of creating their very own sculpture. Aranmor recalls that participants saying things like, “Wow, I am so proud of myself,” and “Yeah, me too. I haven’t been proud of myself in 20 years.” That kind of feedback keeps Aranmor going. “That is the sort of transformation that makes all of the hard work and expense pay off for me.”
Aranmor says that most of the classes Weld Like a Girl offers have a theme and a specific type of project as the goal. “There is ample time to practice both cutting and welding before we explore the project at hand.” At the end of the class each student takes home the masterpiece they created that day. Weld Like a Girl offers half-day, full-day and evening workshops.
The name of the company – Weld Like a Girl – might detract members of the other gender and women who haven’t considered themselves “girls” in decades from enrolling, but these people shouldn’t be dissuaded. “The youngest participant I have taught so far has been eight years old and the oldest has been 83 years old,” Aranmor recalls.
Another point to keep in mind is that Weld Like a Girl offers classes, but it’s not a welding institute or formal educational program. It doesn’t offer welding certifications or any other titles. It’s just a therapeutic place where you can weld and reap all of the associated benefits.
Aranmor ultimate goal is straightforward but powerful, “I want participants to walk away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I want them to be able to walk up to people and proudly say, “I MADE THAT!”
Their slogan is “Empowering Young Women Through Welding,” which is clear in their “Who We Are” statement where they make it clear that the program is “an empowerment project for girls and women, using welding and creativity to boost self-esteem and whole-person wellness.”
For a comprehensive list of scheduled workshops, check out: https://www.weldlikeagirl.us