This International Women’s Day, the official 2021 campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. IWD explains:
“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”
Focusing on “challenge” in 2021 may be a little bit on the nose, as the last year has been nothing short of a series of monumental challenges. From a global pandemic to systemic racism to supply chain fragility to work-from-home and virtual schooling environments, very few parts of life right now don’t seem like a challenge.
From the ashes, though, we’re seeing a rebirth starting, slowly, as new solutions have been arising. Vaccines, decentralized production, social change: the human race is nothing if not adaptable. And so we’re adapting. We’re adapting to a reshaping world, we’re overcoming challenges and beyond that — we’re challenging the status quo.
AM: Challenging the Status Quo
Additive manufacturing is all about change: rethink, reinvent, remake. Every day, this industry is challenging preconceived notions in traditional manufacturing. It’s not such a major leap to extend that beyond the technology and into the workforce behind the tech: the who behind the what.
This year, Women in 3D Printing challenged the industry to reconsider other preconceived notions. At our first annual TIPE 3D Printing conference, we featured the industry’s first all-female speakers agenda. When all too often event organizers “can’t find a female speaker”, we found more than a few: over two days, across five simultaneous tracks, we brought 147 women to the virtual stage to discuss wide-ranging aspects of additive manufacturing.
The executive committee truly had our work cut out for us, as we received more than 200 submissions from highly-qualified potential speakers. That is: we had to narrow down to 147. Two very busy days of nonstop presentations couldn’t fit every qualified speaker who applied. We even added the fifth track, Youth, to add room to our originally-planned agenda outline (and to include a much-needed focus on the next generation of this workforce).
Tell me again how you can’t find a woman to speak at an event.
Tell me again how “there just aren’t any women out there”.
I’d like to challenge those common excuses.
Wi3DP: Choosing to Challenge Inequity
At Women in 3D Printing, for six years now we’ve been focused on a mission of “Promoting, supporting, and inspiring women using Additive Manufacturing technologies” as we challenge the historical gender gap in manufacturing. The work we do is possible because of a vast network of incredible, motivated volunteers.
And it is work. Current estimates indicate that the 3D printing workforce is composed of just 13% women, with 11% women-owned businesses — a far cry from the 50% metrics we’re targeting.
But, and there’s a big but here, things are changing. The best way to make change is to choose to change, and through Women in 3D Printing we’re committed to being and fostering a platform for change. It is, indeed, a choice to challenge the status quo, and that’s a choice we’re making every day.
It’s vital that young people see themselves represented in available role models: if you see her, you can be her. As our founder, Nora Touré, wrote this past December upon Wi3DP’s sixth anniversary:
“Seeing women accomplish great things and participate in these industries is what helps inspire young women, including myself, to participate in this journey. We need strong role models and pioneers who are willing to prove what’s possible, like astronaut Claudie Haigneré. We need to celebrate their successes and talk about them with our children and colleagues. We need to have those conversations to remind young people everywhere that there is a world of possibilities and that it includes manufacturing.”
And so each week at Wi3DP for more than six years now, we have featured a different woman working in the 3D printing industry. At TIPE, we featured 147 of them over two days. With our new NextGEN initiative, we’re connecting the next generation of the workforce with mentors in the industry today.
International Women’s Day at Wi3DP
The 8th of March every year is heralded as International Women’s Day. It’s one day set aside on the calendar to celebrate the women making change around the world. But, as we’ve seen, one day isn’t enough; two days wasn’t enough at TIPE. When is it enough? As the late, great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said:
“People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.”
It’s “enough” when it’s not something to remark on; it’s enough when women’s seats at the table are assumed, not tokenism or optics or “hey, we found one!” It’s enough when we reach equitable employment, and a truly inclusive workforce. A truly inclusive world.
So today, we celebrate the spirit of women everywhere who choose to challenge assumptions, who choose to make their mark on the world. We celebrate those allies who choose to challenge inequity. This International Women’s Day, we challenge you to #ChooseToChallenge and, from there, to choose to change.