Today is a special day for Women in 3D Printing, as we’re celebrating our 5-year anniversary!
From December 2014 to this day, a lot has happened as we went from 1 to 254 shared stories of women in the additive manufacturing, hundreds of women featured on panels and as guest speakers, and 60 chapters worldwide. Our community counts over 10,000 informal members and is continuously growing.
As we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of Women in 3D Printing, our founder Nora Toure is answering questions from the community, covering our past, present, and future as a community.
Why did you start Women in 3D Printing?
By the nature of additive manufacturing itself, because it is a manufacturing tool, it is meant to be used cross-industries. This industry should be enriched by the diverse backgrounds that compose its workforce. Unfortunately, because it is at the crossroad of tech and manufacturing, two profoundly unbalanced industries when it comes to diversity, additive manufacturing is male-dominated.
At some point in my career in additive manufacturing, I realized that this industry being so young, most of us pursued non-3d printing related academic curriculums and most of us didn’t get a “3D printing degree” when we first started working with and around additive manufacturing. I started asking around for everyone’s background and how they got involved in additive manufacturing. If every story was interesting, I found women had even more diverse backgrounds than men and some even had complete career shifts. I know women in our industry who used to be lawyers, teachers, doctors, veterinarians, military… and somehow ended up in additive manufacturing.
These were the starting-point stories I wanted to share via Women in 3D Printing as this platform centers around the idea that we should embrace those diverse backgrounds. I believe they are what makes this industry so rich and interesting.
Our 2019 Diversity for Additive Manufacturing report revealed that, on average, women account for 11% of the additive manufacturing workforce, with most of them in marketing and project management roles. Women in 3D Printing’s mission is to provide a platform to highlight these 11 % of female additive manufacturing professionals, in order to inspire more women to join this industry, but also for men to be aware of this gap and take actions towards a more diverse and gender-balanced industry.
How did the organization evolve in the past 5 years?
When I launched the blog in December of 2014, it was, well, just a blog. My initial idea back then was to interview all the women I knew in the industry, as I thought their stories were worth sharing. Call me naive, but I sincerely thought that within a year of publishing an interview per month, I’d be done featuring all the women I knew in the industry and that it’d be a nice one-year project! Obviously, that didn’t go as planned!
5 years later, we’ve published over 250 articles featuring female professionals in the additive manufacturing industry, now publishing them on a weekly basis.
We’ve also grown a strong community, thanks to the support of our global network of ambassadors. We currently have 60 chapters, led and co-led by over 75 ambassadors, in 23 countries, covering every continent. At least 300 people meet through Women in 3D Printing events every month!
Is the situation for women in the industry better today than it was 5 years ago?
This is very hard to answer as there isn’t much data available. According to a number of reports, it would seem though, that the overall ratio of women in tech is actually declining. Today, barely 25% of jobs in the tech. industry in the U.S are held by women (while they make almost 50% of the U.S workforce).
That being said, at the level of Women in 3D Printing and the additive manufacturing industry, I’ve seen some positive changes over the last 5 years: more companies are actively looking to reach a 50/50 gender ratio in their workforce, more international tradeshows and conferences try to find ways to promote women, and educational programs are being put in place for girls to pursue STEM curriculums.
How will Women in 3D Printing activities impact women’s presence in the additive manufacturing industry in the next 5 years?
Featuring the women who are shaping the industry will, I believe, continue to help them get recognized for their work and hopefully encourage more women to join our industry and thus, increase diversity in additive manufacturing.
We are also pursuing our discussions with hiring companies, offering them a free job board to list their job openings. Most job opportunities are shared within a close network: this is one of the biggest hurdles for more diversity in the workplace. With this self-service job board and regular international gatherings, Women in 3D Printing is enabling broader introductions and connections, which can lead to potential business, partnerships, hiring opportunities, fundraising opportunities, and sometimes even friendships in the industry.
Starting 2020, we’ll introduce a new series, a podcast led by our student ambassador, Sanjana. This podcast will feature women who are developing 3d printing-related educational content. By offering this series, our hope is to inspire the younger generation of Women in 3D Printing, providing them with educational content, but most importantly, leading by example, by featuring only female instructors.
In the next 5 years, we are not excluding providing more personalized and eventually one-on-one mentoring to women of all horizons and at different career advancement stages.
In a few months, we’ll also be announcing something that I think will help tremendously with our mission. Stay tuned!
What were some of the highlights of 2019 for Women in 3D Printing?
In January 2019, we’ve introduced sponsorship opportunities. I would like to thank our first sponsors: HP, EOS, Formlabs, Freeform, Makelab, Red River College, SigmaDesign, and Yaskawa. These sponsorships helped us fund local chapters, providing resources to our ambassadors to cover food & drinks and rent spaces. Donations and sponsorships are also used to cover the expenses of maintaining a beautiful website and associated services such as sending monthly newsletters, marketing expenses related to the promotion of the organization, and travel to industry tradeshows to meet with women in the industry.
We were thrilled to collaborate with TCT for the first Women in 3D Printing Innovator Award. Congratulations to Wai Yee Yeong, Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University for winning this year’s Award.
Also worth mentioning as a highlight of the year, 2 well-established companies in the industry appointed new CEOs, both female! Congratulations to EOS’ CEO Marie Langer and Carbon’s CEO Ellen Kullman. I also would like to congratulate Melissa Orme for her new strategic role as VP Additive Manufacturing at Boeing.
For our 5-year milestone, we have also decided to slightly revamp our logo. We’ve kept our icon, the rounded triangle printing 3 layers. Circles and triangles have ancient meanings, with circles often representing women while triangles representing men. By associating both symbols in our icon, we are strengthening our position for more diversity in the additive manufacturing industry. The main revamping of the logo is the simplification of the font and slight design change on the logo. We hope you’ll like it!