Women in 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, and the TIPE Conference

2021-01-07

Moshe Molcho  

LEO Lane Founders FormNext 2019 photo by Beau Jackson

It made me very proud that about a month ago, my partner Dr. Lee-Bath Nelson became the first Israel Ambassador of Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP). I’ve been aware of the important work of this organization for several years now but Lee-Bath’s recent amplified involvement and effort for the Israeli community gave me another perspective.  In addition, for the past 6 months Wi3DP has been organizing an interesting and inspiring conference on Technology, Industry, People, and Economics/Entrepreneurship – TIPE – coming up January 27-28, 2021. A huge undertaking that promises to provide interesting talks and insights for all, by inspiring leaders in Additive Manufacturing (AM) – I highly recommend it for men and women alike. The entire line up is female – a refreshing experience to look forward to. So, here’s an overview on this amazing organization and the upcoming conference. I hope to see many of you there, especially at Lee-Bath’s talk on daring to take the entrepreneur route in AM. As a former venture capitalist and current entrepreneur she has a unique perspective and will share lessons, and point out pitfalls to avoid on the way – January 28th at 11:30am-noon EST (8:30-9am PST, 17:30-18:00 EU time, 18:30-19:00 Israel time).

Why it’s Important (for Men Especially)

Beyond the noble equality and fairness of achieving Wi3DP’s main goal (50% women in additive manufacturing), supporting and promoting women in STEM is important for every single person in these industries and outside them. As a society, as companies, and as people we want to be able to benefit from the smartest, most innovative, most insightful people available.  Statiscally, half of these are women, however with my 20+ years experience in High Tech industry I can tell you it is much higher than 50%! Only having 13% women in our industry is a terrible resource wasted.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing women and men – most especially my 2 LEO Lane co-Founders, Tessa Blokland & Lee-Bath, and our entire team – and I can say from personal experience that diverse teams (including management teams!) perform better. No further reason is needed, but if anyone is still looking then the values of equality and fairness are also important considerations to me and many others – women and men. I believe we men have an important role and responsibility in actively supporting and promoting women – women have supported and promoted us men since the dawn of ages, it is time to reciprocate!

women in 3d printing

Wi3DP – Humble Beginnings

In 2014, Nora Touré was a Sales and Business Development Manager at service provider Sculpteo. She wanted to highlight the career paths of the women she met in the 3D printing industry so in December 2014 she started a blog with their stories and a LinkedIn group. Her goal was to showcase these ladies so as to inspire others to see what their careers could look like. This was the beginning of Women in 3D Printing. Touré has said in interviews that she expected to do a 1 year project with 10-12 profiles and then run out of interesting women to talk with in AM, but she discovered that there were more than she initially anticipated and many more interesting stories. Now, 6 years later, Women in 3D Printing has 73 chapters in 32 countries with an impressive community of more than 20,000 people and is constantly growing. I truly believe Wi3DP’s goal is achievable and look forward to helping us all get there in any way I can.

Diversity, Diversity, Diversity

The mission of Wi3DP has expanded over the years beyond showcasing women’s stories to networking events and other meetings to inspire and inform women as well as championing diversity in general in the AM industry. Having diverse points of view is an important ingredient in reaching optimal and innovative outcomes and kudos to this organization for championing diversity in general and not only gender diversity!

Alexander Daniels shared with Wi3DP their view that start ups are usually founded by a group of men based on their joint engineering knowledge and their first hires tend to be other men and only then do they hire women. My experience as a founder has been quite different. When we founded LEO Lane, we were 3 co-Founders with a ratio of 2:1 in favor of women. I can highly recommend it! The diversity of our team was in many aspects, including a diversity in point of view that we believe was key in creating the culture and trajectory of our company. Start ups are a risky business (come hear my co-Founder speak on this at the TIPE conference!) and our journey is still just beginning but it is clear to me that LEO Lane has greatly benefitted by (and will continue to benefit from) diversity as well as by the knowledge, insight, and ingenuity of each and every member of our team!

Wi3DP - 3 board members

A Taste of TIPE

TIPE is an excellent opportunity to be inspired by highly accomplished, impressive, and influential women in our industry. The conference is split into 4 tracks (T.I.P.E.) plus a bonus (Y). The Technology track is moderated by Dr. Amy Elliott from ORNL. The Industry track is moderated by Melanie Lang, the co-Founder and CEO of FormAlloy and a member of America Makes’ Executive Committee. The People track is moderated by Sarah Goehrke an AM journalist and managing editor of Fabbaloo. The P track will focus on careers and the women navigating them and will feature an interesting panel on being a CEO in AM with CEOs like Christina Perla of MakeLab. The Economics/Entrepreneurship track is moderated by Kristin Mulherin, Founder of AM-Cubed. Last but not least, there is the bonus Youth track which is moderated by Maddie Frank, an Electrical Engineering student at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee that recently opened her own AM consulting company. The younger generation coming to AM will be the future of our industry and I hope that they will continue to shift its culture to a more diverse and inclusive one. You can find the TIPE agenda here.

Personal Ending Remarks

Throughout my career I did my best to promote diversity and as I wrote above reaped the benefits. However, I am sure that even I, subconsciously, did not always threat women and men equally. I regret this enormously on one hand and on the other hand use this as a daily reminder to do better in my next decision. When my two daughters were born (6 years apart) I was sure that they were born into what will be a much better, equal opportunity, world by the time they will be in their twenties.  I would like to think I raised them with love, telling them every day they are equal to boys (if not better) and that there is nothing they want they could not do. In the last 25 years, I was (and still) so upset every time (and there were/are plenty of times) they are treated unfairly solely based on their gender. The most frustrating thing is that we made so little progress, if at all. If you do not believe me just watch the 2020 movie release of “Picture a Scientist“,  see the sad facts and learn how important it is for men to pay attention and actively support and promote diversity.  I urge everyone, men and women alike, not to give up and to continue to promote gender diversity in everything we do every day.

For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates. Photos: the LEO Lane founders at FormNext 2019 (photo by Beau Jackson). Women in 3D Printing logo and board members Sarah Goehrke and Dana McCullum with founder Nora Touré.

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