A Tale of a Woman Machinist

In yesterday’s Battle Creek Enquirer, Elizabeth Willis wrote an earthy portrait of Julie Eddy, a machinist for 24 years and now an adviser to local students. She says she first got hired because she was wearing a push-up bra when she knocked on the door of the machine shop. She’s had her share of shop injuries and talks about it with the sensibility of a professional wrestler–they come with the job. While the writer views Julie as a working anomaly, anybody who walks into a factory today is likely to see women working all over the shop floor.

Direct link to interview: www.battlecreekenquirer.com

Question: Do you find there is generally a “grease ceiling” which keeps women in a plant assembling parts or doing second op work instead of programming CNC equipment?

Julie Eddy (Battle Creek Enquirer)

Julie Eddy (Battle Creek Enquirer)

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11 thoughts on “A Tale of a Woman Machinist

  1. Paul Huber

    There are many different artificial “ceilings” found in the workplace. It may be less obvious presently, but many individuals have opinions and feelings which are still not in tune with reality.
    Keep in mind the millions of dollars corporations spend every year defending themselves against gender discrimination claims. Most are settled out of court with the corporation proudly proclaiming that no proof of wrongdoing has been established !!
    I chuckle thinking of the time when my employees found out, to their horror, that I did hire a gay woman machine operator.
    Not only did she quickly learn to get involved in the set-up process but she brought in four of her friends, all of which became valuable employees.
    It only took a few months for the men to feel at ease around the women and in fact the whole bunch often did enjoy a beer or two at the local strip joint after work on Friday.

    Paul Huber

  2. Andy L

    Machine shops are still predominatly a man’s world, not sure why. I taught CNC programming for a major OEM for 12 years and only had 2 women ever come to my class. 1 was a shop owner’s daughter who got time out of high school to come & get trained on the old conversatinal programming. It was probably 20 years ago but I’ll never forget her, she did great on the simulator but freaked out when it was her turn to set offsets on the real machine (I let her dad handle the attitude problems).

    Go to any major machne tool show, how many real female engineers do you find? – Most women passing through the boots have a tag with a title but are really somebody’s girlfriend. They have a dear in the headlights look. I have met a few who really are engineers or shop owners, but thehy are a small minority.

  3. Gus Madison

    In the case of the article, the photo says it all! Is that mentality you would want working with YOUR machines? Let alone teaching others the ‘get a bigger hammer’ approach to being ignorant. That article and photo did more harm to any employer wanting to hire a woman AND any woman considering entering the field. I’m not even sure that IS a woman in the photo! Was anyone thinking when that article was created?

  4. Lloyd

    Gus Madison I love your comment. When I saw the the photo online I snickered at the big hammer that big lady was hoisting. I think the photographer was dumb in using that angle or he was deliberately trying to mock her. I feel bad for Ms Eddy because she was the victim of amateurish editing by the Battle Creek Enquirer. Even though I liked the article because it was authentic and crudely honest that old Bridgeport looks like its going to take a beating. at her hands.

  5. Tamara Ann

    Well, I have been a machinist and model maker for 28 years and currently program and run a Mazak Integrex,( which happens to kick ass!). I have to say, that is not the most flattering photo. Besides beating on a spindle like crazy, where are the safety glasses?

  6. Andy L

    I was also concerned about the safety comments. The article states, “She’s had her share of shop injuries and talks about it with the sensibility of a professional wrestler–they come with the job.” Back in the 1970’s that was an acceptable comment, but our safety standards and emphasis has increased dramatically since then, there are no excuses for multiple injuries.

    I agree that that picture is an aweful representation of machine shop work.

  7. Tamara Ann

    Well, I am the only woman in my plant that is a machinist. I work with 13 men in our Tool and Development Department. We also have several production departments with very few women. The only thing that ever really got in my way was my own self confidence. Sure, I have run into men that didn’t like it that I have the job that I have. I can’t say that I have never been in the bathroom crying because I got hurt feelings because of it, but I never had anyone with any kind of authority try to hold me back, or say I couldn’t do something. I went to trade school and got my machinist certificate. I worked my way up from the bottom just like everyone else. I don’t think I only got the job I have now just because I am a woman. I still have to do the work! I think a lot of women just aren’t interested in the work. I also think that it is scary to try to get into a male dominated field. I knew that I wanted to do this kind of work since I took shop class in high school. I thought it was a blast! I did go to college for 3 semesters, I hated it. I think you have to like the work enough that you can get past confidence issues to begin with and be willing to put up with a certain amout of crap. Nobody says anything to me anymore, heck, I run the most expensive piece of equipment in the building! lol. The thing that burns me up the most nowadays is going to IMTS and not being able to get anyone to talk to me about machines. I will be there with a couple of men and I will ask a question and the person with answer to one of the guys without even looking at me. By the time I am done with them, it is pretty ugly. Anyway, I can run several CNC machines and my boss has no problem sending me to school so I can learn more.

  8. Raquel Oscar

    I would like to get into Cnc machining. I am married with 2 kids also my husband has been in the machine shop for 10 yrs as an Assembly techncian. I told him while at his job that I could probably do what the cnc machinist were doing. He said probably, but some guy wouldn’t appreciate it,though. I think with the proper training woman can do it. I definitely have that on my agenda list in life….to achieve it.

  9. Leigh Ann

    I am a lady machinist. I attended set up school at Milwaukee Area Tech. College. I am currently enrolled in the Tool and Die program. I have been a machinist for 7 years. Although I went the manual conventional route not CNC. The first years I set up and operated old school NB and B&S screw machines. (Insert tired joke about screw machines here) I now do manuals. I do love machining but the first year was awful. I did have to work through a lot of hostility; some blatant some passive agressive. Sometimes, the men I worked with were innocently curious. I have answered “Yes I am married, no , not to a girl.” a billion times. I just like machining! Why would that automatically make me gay? You really develop a sense of humor about it. When someone says something derogatory to me I smile and tell them it’s ok, I prefer men too! Wink wink…

  10. Wendy

    I’m a CNC Machinist and Programmer and now am the Forewoman of a precision start-up company as the only CNC Machinist, the first employee (now there are more employees), and the first choice because of my excellent references and resume. I went to college for Criminal Law, but decided to try my hand at machining. I became a CNC Machinist and Quality Control Inspector in my twenties and now I’m 32 and helping to run a shop with the owner who is a 35 year-old male. There is certainly a “grease-ceiling” as far as hearing tired, old comments about being a “hot machinist” and how “unusual” it is to see a woman choosing machining as a trade, but in reality this is an American problem that stems from women not choosing the trades primarily because they feel they will not be welcome, accepted, or respected. Not because women are unable, uninterested, or unqualified for those positions.

    I have come across coworkers/bosses who are accepting and unruffled by my being a regular woman (ie: not butch, not “gay”, not “masculine” in any sense…as far as the comments here are concerned), but I’ve also noted that I have to prove myself a lot more than less experienced male counterparts. However, I am a Type A personality and take no crap from anyone. I can do anything in a shop a man can do and those who ARE sexist don’t have to take my word for it because they quickly see that I’m very much their equal and nothing about my gender hinders my abilities. The idea that it might is preposterous. But I see by some of the comments here that there are many men who feel threatened by women in the shop. That’s a shame…but they just need to get over it and realize that social constructs are not a biological difference nor based on any hard sciences. They are merely an attitude that they need to deprogram themselves from believing to be intelligent and educated people.


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