March is Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by highlighting woman professionals in additive manufacturing (AM). The National Women’s History Alliance, which selects and publishes the yearly theme for Women’s History Month, named the theme of 2021, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.” Here at ProtoCAM, we strive to give women an equal voice in our workplace and industry, as well as on a global scale, and highlighting women in additive manufacturing and recognizing the role gender diversity plays in our industry are important aspects of achieving that goal.
It is no secret that the additive manufacturing industry and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) industries in general are male-dominated. According to the 2021 Worldwide Additive Manufacturing Salary Survey prepared by Alexander Daniels Global, roughly 12% of the additive manufacturing industry is comprised of women. Statistics like this demonstrate why it is important that events like the recent TIPE 3D Printing 2021 conference in January occur. This conference, which was organized by the non-profit Women in 3D Printing, featured an all-female speaker lineup with topics ranging from advancements in additive manufacturing, biomaterials, and metal additive printing, to mass customization, pushing the limits of 3D printing in healthcare, and human-centered innovation.
Panelists at TPE 3D Printing 2021 included Michelle Bockman, CEO of 3DPrinterOS; Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs; Marie Langer, CEO of EOS; and Sonita Lontoh, CMO of 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing at HP, who discussed their observations as drivers of change and their ideas on diversity, allyship, and sustainability. While the panelists discuss major issues in additive manufacturing and how the industry is evolving, they also discussed the lack of women in the additive manufacturing space and in management positions, and the strengths that such women could bring to the industry.
In the “Power Women” keynote at TPE, Lontoh emphasized diversity in the workplace, saying, “This is a generalization, but I do think female leaders are more empathetic and collaborative…For all of us working in male-dominated technology and manufacturing sectors, female leaders are customer-centric. Women take the time to understand customers’ pain points and can articulate how their solutions—even in collaboration with other solutions from other companies—can actually help solve customer problems…Leaders develop other leaders, instead of other followers. And in my experience, female leaders seem to pay more attention to that. Maybe they are more intentional and more willing to develop others as leaders. And we’re more collaborative and inclusive…What you get when you mix people from diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences is what I call the value network.”
The Women in 3D Printing organization also strives to emphasize the importance of gender diversity in its Diversity for Additive Manufacturing 2020 Report, a special volume which not only focuses on gender diversity in our industry, but also on the inclusion of minorities. The report positions AM within the unequal dynamic created by systematic racism and sexism, and aims to promote diversity and inclusion in the sector as well as to highlight existing initiatives that support them.
These efforts to highlight and emphasize gender diversity in the workplace have not gone unnoticed. The percentage of women in the AM industry has risen by 2% since 2018 according to the 2021 Worldwide Additive Manufacturing Salary Survey, and the number of women in AM is likely to continue to go up. This is in part due to organizations like Women in 3D Printing and events like the Women in AM Summit, which influence companies to increase focus on diversity and inclusion when hiring.
Another factor influencing the increasing number of women joining the AM industry is the purposeful illumination of inspirational women. In a male-dominated industry like additive manufacturing, lifting up inspiring women and showcasing their abilities and accomplishments is vital to attracting more women into the industry. Besides those already mentioned, we’d like to highlight several more of these inspirational women in order to keep inspiring potential woman engineers and AM professionals.
Stefanie Brickwede, Head of AM at Deutsche Bahn & Managing Director at Mobility Goes Additive has successfully headed up the additive manufacturing division of Deutsche Bahn, while setting up and managing the Mobility Goes Additive network, which has grown to become the leading international AM network.
Kim Smith, VP / General Manager at Boeing Fabrication launched and is leading Boeing’s additive manufacturing division, focusing on integrating, leveraging and accelerating 3D printing capabilities across the company.
Nora Touré, Founder of Women in 3D Printing and VP of Ivaldi Group has, since 2014, been one of the most proactive and influential women in AM with her initiatives to bring more women into the industry. She also co-initiated #3DTalk, an event series featuring women in AM and related industries, as well as being the Board Advisor of 3D Africa. Her many initiatives and her vocation to contributing to the AM community has had a major influence and been a huge inspiration for women to enter the AM industry.
Here at ProtoCAM, we strive to provide an equal-opportunity workplace, and lift up our female employees whenever possible. We, along with others in the additive manufacturing industry, will continue to work to ensure equality not only in the additive manufacturing space, but globally across all industries.