Julie Reece is the Vice President of Marketing at Massachusetts based 3D printer company Rize Inc. On the closing day of this year’s AMUG conference, Reece spoke on a panel of other professionals in the industry on the challenges, and observed rise, of women in additive manufacturing.
In a follow-up blog post on the talk, Reece shares her thoughts on some of the key questions tackled by the panel, addressing a question of diversity within the industry which is essential to its ability to thrive and proliferate within a global culture.
The Changing Landscape of Additive Manufacturing
Reece spoke on “The Changing Landscape of Additive Manufacturing – Women in Additive Manufacturing” panel with four other women in the 3D printing industry. These were: Elizabeth Goode, President of GoodeInk specialist consultants for additive and subtractive manufacturing industries; Melissa Lutz, Business Director at Somos SLA materials from DSM; Shannon VanDeren, AMUG Liaisons participant and President of Layered Manufacturing and Consulting; and Lisa Burt, Engineering Project Manager at Caterpillar Inc, that is moving towards metal additive manufacturing for its machinery.
Though the panel is a step toward the right direction of women’s representation in 3D printing, it does call for more of this kind of discussion, and representation across the industry.
An optimistic outlook
As of 2017, Reece has been in the additive manufacturing industry for over 10 years. In her observations of women in roles at 3D printer manufacturers, service bureaus, resellers and labs, Reece takes a positive view of the direction of the industry, writing,
It’s not that women aren’t playing influential roles in their companies and in the industry – they are – but they generally tend to remain behind the scenes and their contributions publicly unrecognized.
With this she also highlights organizations set up for just this purpose, such as Women in 3D Printing founded by Nora Toure in 2014. The group and supporting site set up by Toure features interviews with women across the industry: giving a diverse picture of their roles.
At the time of writing this article Women in 3D Printing’s group on Facebook is supported by over 600 individuals, and another 600 plus have joined on LinkedIn.
Additive manufacturing is not for the “risk adverse”
Though Reece’s outlook is optimistic, the fact remains that women are still vastly underrepresented in 3D printing and the manufacturing industry as a whole. It isn’t easy to follow a career path in a male-dominated industry, and Reece adds,
The additive manufacturing industry isn’t for those who are risk adverse, whether you are male or female. There will undoubtedly be considerable consolidation over the coming years and you must accept this risk if you want to work happily in the industry.
Why does the industry need women?
A well known view within the industry is that there aren’t enough skilled people to fill the roles available. Professor Moataz Attallah shared this view commenting on advanced manufacturing PhDs at the University of Birmingham. The opinion is also seconded by 3D Platform president Jonathan Schroeder, and taken into account in roadmaps scrutinizing the industry on a national scale.
To take a look at a much more well established and larger tech industry, IT, women consistently make up less than 40% of computer oriented jobs.
By 2020 the US alone will have an estimated 1.2 million jobs available in computing and the college system so far isn’t producing enough graduates to fill those jobs.
Having a better balance of women within such roles helps to produce a varied perspective on company action, and is statistically proven to have advantages for revenue within tech companies.
It’s a similar situation in the UK. There is a drive for advanced manufacturing facilities across the nation, but still a shortage of students pursuing engineering or related subjects as a career path.
This was evident at a recent 3D Printing Industry attended. “Is your brain pink or blue? Challenging stereotyping in STEM” was organised by the London NUT Women’s Network in conjunction with Prospect. The title of the event itself was a reference to a now notorious piece of “bad science.”
Speakers at the event included Professor Sophie Scott, a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow at University College London, Catherine Leggett from the National Autistic Society and Professor Gabrielle Ivinson from Manchester Metropolitan University. National Union Of Teachers president Max Hyde led a discussion on “what we know about the brain and the way it interacts with sex, gender and neurodiversity.”
Professor (and stand-up comedian) Sophie Scott presented compelling research countering many widely held stereotypes and Professor Gabrielle Ivinson reported on her research into the perpetuation of such stereotypes. A more detailed review of the event can be read here.
A key take-away was that the current manner of presenting technology in schools, and wider society, is detrimental to establishing a balanced workforce.
To this end, it is easy to see the value of encouraged STEM/STEAM education programs in schools. Particularly those designed to help women in an environment that, as it stands, is somewhat closed to their gender. Reece asserts this thought as follows,
I expect it will take several more years, until young women benefiting from STEM/STEAM education enter the additive manufacturing industry professionally, before these numbers increase significantly. In the meantime, I hope to see more female pioneers already working in the industry promoted to C-level positions.