Being a woman in a traditionally male profession is not always easy, but welding engineer Lori Kuiper was raised to believe you can be anything you want to be. Today, she is determined to pass on this message by inspiring women to forge their path in the industry that she loves.
Lori Kuiper is Orbital, Heating and Pipe Product Manager at Red-D-Arc, part of Airgas, Air Liquide’s U.S. subsidiary.
How did your career as a woman welder start?
When I was 24, I applied for an apprenticeship program at General Motors that had reserved three places for women. On my first day, I ended up in a dark, smoky foundry with overhead cranes on tracks carrying buckets of molten metal – and I wondered what I had gotten myself into! My career has evolved a lot since then, but I wouldn’t be here at Airgas today if that original opportunity for women hadn’t been created – proof that when a company does something with intent, it pays off.
You are very committed to encouraging women in the industry. Do you have examples of initiatives to share with us?
There are a lot of fantastic grassroots initiatives such as Weld Like a Girl™ and Women Who Weld®1. Internally at Air Liquide, Women in TCL2 supports employees to advance in their field. This program recognizes employees for their technical knowledge and scientific expertise, offering them a flexible and structured career path. We are also involved in educational outreach, and we provide welding equipment and training to help teachers and students learn new and advanced skills in the field. That might seem basic, but not being able to find personal protective equipment that fits correctly is a huge barrier to learning to weld.
What would you say to a woman thinking about an engineering career at Air Liquide?
I would tell them that it’s a place where their voice will be heard and where different points of view are valued. But most importantly, I would say don’t let other people put limitations on you or hold you back from your path.