Groundbreaking e-commerce entrepreneurship and gender equality are not the first topics that come to mind when you think of Welding. But if you are Jim Watson, who created Arc-Zone back in 1998, you combine the two with an incredible passion for high-performance products and good customer service to create an industry-leading brand. Arc-Zone’s mascots, Joe Welder, and his female counterpart, Carmen Electrode both have blogs on their online welding product company. Here readers can find everything from welder features, product reviews, current news and tips and tricks of the trade. With women making up only 4.7% of the Welding workforce, according to the 2018 Department of Labor Report, Carmen Electrode is on a mission to increase that number significantly. By giving women their own platform within the larger welding community of Arc-Zone, Jim is hoping to help “ mold the industry into an accepting and encouraging space for all women in the trades”.
So where did much of Jim’s enthusiasm for gender equality come from? Well, Arc-Zone is committed to giving back to the community that helped build it and women have always been a guiding force behind the journey. It started with his mother handing him a local newspaper, displaying a union welding job. It was this experience where Jim had his first insights into the life of women in trades. “When I was working at the union job, there were only two ladies. They weren’t very friendly at the beginning, which is totally understandable because they weren’t treated very well.” Not surprisingly, Jim’s approach to becoming friends with these women was through the innovation of a tool he created that increased productivity by allowing them to braze more pieces at a time. “I shared my tool with them, and we got along pretty well from that point on.”
Jim went on to marry a strong tradeswoman. His wife Gina, a hairstylist by trade, not only helped support him financially and mentally through the early years of Arc-Zone, she was a driving influence behind the look and creation of Carmen Electrode. Along with their friends, they brainstormed different trendy names like MIG Ryan and Britney Sparks but ultimately landed on the name Carmen Electrode after they conducted a poll that declared Carmen the winner on Arc-Zone’s Website. “Women who persevere through trying times and come out stronger than ever are who Carmen Electrode is based on,” says Jim. “At Arc-Zone, nearly half our staff are women – strong, smart, empowered women – our Carmen's behind the scenes & on the front lines. It’s Awesome! I also have a daughter, and I make sure that she knows she can do whatever she sets her mind to. We want the Carmen Electrode blog, Instagram, and brand as a whole to embody the empowerment of women and demonstrate all the diverse opportunities in welding, fabrication, and trades.”
all photos courtesy of Arc-Zone