Happy Women’s History Month! The 3D printing industry is continually developing and making strides when it comes to fair gender representation. Times are changing and there are currently many inspiring women making colossal strides within the realm.
From designers and engineers, to scientists, professors, editors and CEOs, women are not only shaping the future of additive manufacturing technology and its applications, they are paving the way for aspiring women everywhere. Encouragingly, 74% of school age girls today express a desire for careers in STEM fields.
Recognizing women’s value within the 3D printing industry and the business landscape in general is not only fair, but smart. An EY study found that companies with at least 30% female leaders had net profit margins up to 6% higher than companies with no women at the top. Similarly, a McKinsey & Co. report found that companies in the top quartile for gender equality are 15% more likely to boast financial returns above their national industry medians.
This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting 8 of the women taking the 3D printing industry to new heights, with their continued dedication to research, innovation and education.
Neri Oxman, designer and professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group.
Neri Oxman has received countless awards and much deserved recognition for her contribution to the world of design, technology and 3D printing. Notably, she has been using 3D printing technology to support a new architectural philosophy grounded in nature and material ecology.
At the 2016 World Economic Forum in Switzerland, she predicted that 3D printing would play a pivotal role in the fourth industrial revolution, whilst many of her artistic experiments push the boundaries of 3D printing, often in collaboration and with the support of industry leader Stratasys.
Stefanie Brickwede, managing director at Mobility Goes Additive
Managing director of Mobility Goes Additive (MGA), Stefanie Brickwede, has worked hard to make her mark on the world of 3D printing. Thanks to Stefanie, in just two years, MGA has grown from nine founding members to over 90.
The leading international network for 3D printing helps to connect companies, promote relevant research institutes, identify new business opportunities, support established contacts and open up new markets to increase competition.
Steph Piper, co-founder of Elkei Education
Steph Piper is the co-founder of Elkei Education, the Patron of the Brisbane Hackerspace and the Community Engagement Coordinator at the University of Southern Queensland. Steph not only teaches courses in 3D printing, 3D modeling and Ardunio classes, she is also the co-founder of Spark Girlz.
The company’s aim is to educate young girls on technology and electronic skills to encourage them to confidently enter the sector and succeed. Some of Steph’s 3D models have been used for medical-grade implants and biofabrication.
If you’d like to keep up to date with her projects, she regularly updates her website PIPER3DP with blogs and upcoming workshops.
Caroline Walerud, co-founder of Stockhold 3D foot scanning company Volumenta
Caroline Walerud made it onto the coveted Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016 for her trailblazing work developing 3D foot scanners. Her company - Volumental - uses 3D scanning to find the perfect fit for shoe shoppers.
Volumental's hardware includes a platform that resembles a high-tech scale. All a shoe shopper has to do is stand on the device, and depth cameras take a 3D, volumetric scan of each foot. The company's software captures data points including arch length and ball width that a shoe retailer would normally find difficult to measure.
Cathy Lewis, 3D printing consultant
Cathy Lewis boasts a diverse career within the additive manufacturing sphere, beginning in 2006 as the CEO of start-up Desktop Factory, a company dedicated to the development of an affordable 3D printer for the education and DIY markets.
In 2009, she became the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of 3D systems. Since then, she has worked as a consultant, most notably as an advisor for 3DEO, Inc., a metal additive manufacturing start-up she says has made hiring more women a key priority.
She told 3D Printing Media:
It is almost impossible in today’s tight labor market to maintain your position or grow without tapping into a constituency that represents half of the labor force. Women bring unique perspectives to a business and they tend to have a leadership style that is more inclusive. The women I have met and worked with along the way also tend to be highly creative problem solvers and AM is about leveraging creativity to make parts and products based on optimum performance, not just manufacturability.
Her wisdom doesn’t stop there:
My advice [to women] is to get involved and learn as much as possible about AM, both historically and in regards to the future of these exciting technologies. Join a 3DP organization like Women in 3DP or a Maker Lab—or start one. There are so many roles one could consider, from designing in 3D, helping physicians plan a surgical procedure, developing new materials to actually manufacturing products using AM. This industry has been around for over 30 years but as I look out on the horizon, I believe the greatest promise and accomplishments of AM are yet to come.
Nora Toure, founder of Women in 3D Printing
Nora Toure is the founder of Women in 3D Printing - which has a mission of promoting, supporting, and inspiring women from all over the world using additive manufacturing technologies. The group has hundreds of members and offers opportunities to grow in the field with educational events, talking panels, a web magazine and a continuously updated job board.
Nora is also the co-founder of #3DTalk - an event series that gives a panel of women in the industry an opportunity to educate and inspire each other.
She said: “We still do not have enough female leaders as for today though, but I am hopeful we’ll see more of them emerge and take on more responsibilities in the coming year”.
Iris Van Herpen, Dutch designer and trailblazer of 3D fashion printing
Iris van Herpen was the first to ever send a 3D printed fashion piece down the runway back in 2010. Since the debut of that first piece, “Crystallization”, van Herpen has continued to make her mark on the world of 3D printing.
The 3D printing pioneer has exhibited her pieces in Amsterdam, London and Paris, and continues to come up with new and innovative ways to use 3D printing in her work.
Sarah Goehrke, 3D printing journalist and editor
Sarah Goehrke is an experienced journalist in the 3D printing industry who got her break in 2014 at 3DPrint.com, first as a writer then as the website’s editor-in-chief. She went on to start her own editorial services company, Additive Integrity, and continues to contribute to a number of AM platforms and publications.
She told 3D Printing Media:
It’s great to see some real powerhouse women in this industry, but evidently we still have a long way to go as most estimates place women at less than one-quarter of total employees in 3D printing today.
Advice to Women in 3D Printing
Thanks to the advancements and innovations initiated by the women above (to name but a few of the trailblazers), the use of 3D printing technology has found its place in a wide variety of areas, from the realms of aerospace and prosthetics, to cars, sports and food. The industry is being constantly driven forward by research and investment, since its technology promises higher flexibility and faster design, as well as optimized material, labor and transportation costs.
As Goehrke further states: “While more competitive than ever before, the landscape of 3D printing is flush with opportunity to develop/grow new processes and business strategies - and investors are keeping close watch.”
Application development consultant at EOS, Monica Smith, believes it’s important for women to jump in and get involved:
If you are still studying, start a 3D printing club. Attend conferences; visit the booths at trade shows. Find someone whose career you admire and reach out to them. Ask them questions about their job and their company. There are many different ways to get involved in the industry and with the rapid expansion, plenty of job openings across different areas of the business.
Julie Reece, VP of marketing for 3D printing company Rize, believes women should have faith in their abilities when it comes to the additive manufacturing world: “If you know your subject matter, speak with confidence. If you don't know, ask questions. Don't wait for opportunity; make things happen.”
While there are still many improvements to be made with regards to championing women in this sector, it is heartening to see that women are succeeding in the industry and young girls currently in education are taking interest in the sector.
Indeed, society is working hard to close the gender pay gap, promote diversity and champion equality in the workplace. It’s a critical and transformative time in women’s history, and we need to continue to show the women of today and tomorrow that they can do anything they put their mind to – and that includes making their mark on the 3D printing world.
Continue Celebrating Women's History Month: