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Closing Women’s History Month with a Look at Five Leaders in AM

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As Women’s History Month ends, 3DPrint.com highlights five visionary individuals empowering fellow women to excel in 3D printing and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Driven by their entrepreneurial approach and steadfast leadership in a male-dominated industry, these are just five women in an evergrowing sector doing great things.

Kate Black

A Professor of Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool’s School of Engineering and avid researcher of functional materials for inkjet printing, Kate Black is also the co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of Meta Additive, a U.K. binder jet technology startup that Desktop Metal acquired in 2021. Voted one of the “Top 50 Women in Engineering” by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and The Daily Telegraph, Black founded LivWISE (Liverpool Women in Science & Engineering) in 2013 to celebrate, support, and promote women in STEM. Black is one of the leading faces for women in AM, campaigning to broaden recruitment into the industry and other STEM careers.

“I believe we need new and different minds – diversity in its widest sense – if AM is to achieve its full potential,” Black claims.

Kate Black, co-founder of Meta Additive. Image courtesy of Kate Black via LinkedIn.

Callie Higgins

Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) Ambassador Callie Higgins is so immersed in AM that she aims to inspire others to see how wonderful the industry is. Higgins’s career as a materials research engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – a U.S. Department of Commerce federal agency – began in 2017 when she became a National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral fellow. Today, the electrical engineer leads by example and reinforces her innovative spirit with plenty of research initiatives and photopolymer AM projects. In Colorado, where she lives and works, Higgins leads the local Wi3DP chapter and ensures the group’s mission of an inclusive environment in AM is passed on to other women.

Callie Higgins. Image courtesy of Callie Higgins/NIST.

Stacey DelVecchio

With 35 years of experience in the heavy-duty industrial markets, Stacey DelVecchio is a leading force in a broad range of areas, from AM to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She has led organization-wide initiatives that challenged the status quo and started Caterpillar’s AM program. A chemical engineer and former President of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE),  DelVecchio today manages her firm, StaceyD Consulting, focused on deploying AM in the industrial sector and advancements toward gender equity in STEM fields. Aside from volunteer efforts in her local community of Peoria, Illinois, she continues to advocate for 3D printing and is a champion for gender equity in STEM.

Stacey DelVecchio celebrates International Women’s day. Image courtesy of Stacey DelVecchio via Twitter.

Ruba Al Nashash

Additive manufacturing (AM) expert and Founder of Dubai-based 3D printing business 3Dinova Ruba Al Nashash is leading the charge for women leaders in STEM. A civil engineer and entrepreneur, Al Nashash is not only running her own company but is focused on incorporating 3D printing in education by providing 3D printing workshops and training for anyone who wants to learn, from students and hobbyists to professionals. A mother of two, Al Nashash has always worked in male-dominated industries, first oil and gas and then construction, before choosing to create her own company where she can impart her experience and inspire creativity.

Ruba Al Nashash, founder of 3Dinova. Image courtesy Ruba Al Nashash via LinkedIn.

Stefanie Brickwede

Meet Stefanie Brickwede, managing director of Mobility Goes Additive (MGA) – an international network for industrial AM – and head of AM at German national railway company Deutsche Bahn. Not only is she behind new network initiatives for 3D printing in the public transport industry and sustainable goals, but Brickwede is considered a “promoter of heterogeneous and thus more successful teams.” In 2019 she created the annual “Women in Additive Manufacturing” conference, sharing her ambitious 3D printing goals with colleagues. This same passion she imparted to attendees when Brickwede delivered her keynote speech on transportation at the recent Additive Manufacturing Strategies 2023 (AMS) trade show in New York.

Stefanie Brickwede. Image courtesy of Mobility Goes Additive.

The legacy

Like many before them, these five ladies are flagbearers for women in STEM and plenty of other fields where women are underrepresented. Their love for 3D printing, learning, sharing, and research does not intimidate them but leaves them wanting more: more leadership positions, more inclusion, more gender and racial equality, and even more empathy. Women make great leaders; although many organizations still don’t realize it, they need them. After all, gender-diverse businesses have higher average revenue than less diverse ones.

Food for thought

For years, statistics about women’s untapped potential have plagued the news. However, since the early 1990s, research has shown that despite numerous obstacles and often challenging working conditions, women in STEM fields enjoy their work. Regrettably, women face a harsh reality in workplaces dominated by their male counterparts, such as the manufacturing sector. This bleak picture has slightly improved in countries like Norway and New Zealand.

For example, in the U.S., women make up a quarter or fewer of workers in computing and engineering, but there is still plenty of variation in women’s representation across different jobs. Regardless, minorities, like Hispanic and Black workers, continue to be severely underrepresented, according to a Pew Research Center study.

A 2022 quarterly publication by AM organization Wi3DP, titled “Diversity for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM): Differences in Pay within the Industry,” highlighted the issue of gender pay as part of its dedication to promoting, supporting, and inspiring women in AM. The inevitable conclusion that the AM community has a wage gap between men and women—and all the more so once accounting for motherhood, is just the tip of the iceberg. A lack of job salary information in markets like AM is dragging down what feels more like a battle of wages, a long one at that.

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