The Diversity for Additive Manufacturing Report #3 report has been released today, International Women’s Day.
This semiannual report is sponsored by our partner Women in 3D Printing, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of women in the industry. The report attempts to track the results generated by the efforts of Women in 3D Printing worldwide and many others in our workplaces.
While the report focuses primarily on gender diversity, it is their intention in the future to explore several additional dimensions of diversity, such as ethnicity or education, for further analysis.
The author of the report, Sarah Goehrke, who just happens to be our own Managing Editor here at Fabbaloo, chose to divide the report into the two key sections: Data-driven analysis and subjective feedback. This is important because the data does not always show what’s actually happening, perhaps because our industry is still relatively new and thus it has not yet made it into the normal governmental tracking reports.
A key statistic in the Alexander Daniels GLobal AM Salary Survey used by the report found that in 2018 the percentage of female participants in the 3D print workforce actually decreased by 2%, dropping to 11%. Our own survey of readers recently showed a similar, but slightly higher, percentage of 14% female readers. In fact our female readership has been consistently growing over time, and I suspect that the 2% drop in the Survey may be an aberration, and that in the long term we will continue to see the percentage rise.
Nevertheless, slow progress is being made, as indicated by one respondent, Sarah Boisvert, Founder of Fab Lab Hub, who explains:
“It is much easier now to work in digital fabrication technology than it was 30 years ago. At least now there ARE other women in additive! At my first laser conference in 1986, there were 10,000 and literally only 5 women. But we must use that to our advantage. Everyone in my industry knew me as I stood out among all the men. I have to say that because I was always beyond reproach in my interactions, I never had one man ever even tell me a dirty joke. My colleagues were respectful and of course, the fact I could do the math gave me credibility.”
The report hints at some of the reasons for this low percentage, and it may have to do with the type of roles typically taken on by females in additive manufacturing operations. They found that approximately 40% of marketing professionals are women, or example, which is much higher than the overall total. This implies that the percentage of females performing technical roles is significantly lower than 11%.
It’s been said in other analyses that women tend to not join a company where the culture is significantly male-dominated. The reports suggest that one way to begin counteracting that effect is to try very hard to hire female managers whose presence could contribute to changing the culture.
Another factor that might be contributing to the issue is the relative lack of visible role models, often reinforced at major additive manufacturing events where non-diverse panels typically rule. Report author Goehrke explains her frustration with this phenomenon:
“I’ve started to entertain the idea of passing on panels and presentations that only feature white men. While I would be perhaps put out on coverage opportunities, if event organizers can’t be bothered to have women on stage, perhaps they won’t miss out on one more in the audience.
It’s not exactly a nuclear option, and would likely be something of a small protest; silent even, if I didn’t speak up instead about why I chose not to attend a session. But everything has to start somewhere, and I’m tired of agendas that look the same.”
There are indeed many qualified female speakers, as shown on this chart:
I believe this is a very key point, and is something literally everyone can do: simply open your eyes and take a look at what’s going on around you. How diverse is that panel? Which minorities appear in your management team? Who’s on the workshop floor? Once you adjust your vision to include a diversity dimension, it rapidly becomes a lot easier to understand what’s happening.
3D printing is still a very new industry, and it needs all the help it can get. That should include skilled individuals from anywhere, of any type, so long as they can do great job.
Sometimes that may be perceived to take a little bit of extra effort, but that’s a very small cost to dramatically deepen the skill pool and achieve fairness in the workplace.
And that’s why we strongly support diversity in the workplace.