On some level, the mass conception of the tech industry is run almost exclusively by men, which wouldn’t be wrong, but that also completely takes women out of the equation. In the 3D printing industry, in particular, more and more women are finding success, and now, they’re coming together, too. Nora Toure is the Sales Manager and Business Development Manager at Sculpteo, and on top of that, she’s also the founder of a collective called Women In 3D Printing. Nora tells her story about carving out a place for herself and those like her in the industry to Tom and Tracy Hazzard. Let Nora’s story inspire you to carve out space for yourself as well!
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Women in 3D Printing with Nora Toure
We got an interview today with Nora Toure of Women in 3D Printing. She is the founder of the LinkedIn group of Women in 3D printing and now it has it’s own site and group formation. She is also the sales manager and business development manager for Sculpteo and she has been around 3D printing for five years both in France and in the US. We came to know her through the 3D printing group. I remember joining that group and having the opportunity to meet Nora and other people of this group. They were kind enough to let us tag along at CES. There was a meet up with a very small group which was nice and interesting. We just wanted to know what was going on so I talked to her and asked her questions like, why did she form the group and things related to that.
Hi Nora, thank you so much for joining us to talk about women in 3D printing.
Thank you for having me.
We are really excited. We don’t get to talk enough women and we’ve been a concerted effort to reach more women in 3D printing. That’s exactly how we met. Tell me about the women in 3D printing group.
I started this group in December 2014. It was supposed to be a business group, nothing more. I knew a lot of women who are in our industry, and I felt that we all have this feeling that we are alone, even though we were out there but not just talking to each other. I thought it would be interesting and that we should have a group that we all connect in. We are looking for specifically women in the industry. Not necessarily have to be in it, but if you want to, I wanted to have a place for that. That’s how I started the group. It started with just the people I knew in my network. Now, we are about 300 in the group. We also have men following the group. On how the group evolves, I start creating a blog womenin3Dprinting.com in which we interview women in our industry. Asking them about what they do, how did they involve in the industry, what they think about the industry, and how they think it should evolve. That’s basically what the group is today and what we are doing.
Gender equity and gender issues in tech industry are a hot topic. I’ve been so wonderfully suprised with people like Eva Wolf, whom you profiled recently. There are just so many prominent women but we are not hearing enough of them and enough about them. Your profiles are really helping to bring awareness to that.
What do you think the group will do about this?
That’s the question I’ve been asked a lot. This is not my day job when in 3D printing. We started like a side project. As for today, my day job is being a sales manager and business developer for Sculpteo. I had to ask myself, “Where is this going?” as I see how more and more successful the group is that I wasn’t planning at the beginning. One of the things I am coming up with is, that after talking with other women in the industry and having their opinion in which it should go, it shouldn’t be just me, it is a community group. Two things I am seeing here in are booth involving education, is one of the things that most women getting in this group want is that they need you to focus more on the education.
Make sure that the next generation knows about 3D printing so that girls of today that are either in middle school, high schools or in college, know about 3D printing. Like in engineering, sales, customer service, production there’s so many skills involved in 3D printing. There’s so many skills that they involve in 3D printing. We need to bring this to grow in schools above this technology for them to even know that they can go in this direction. I want to talk more to girls for them to understand what 3D printing is and what they can do. This is the things I want to do in 3D printing. The long term project for me is to see in other countries still need to get out of their economic situation, to have more money for them to be able to live better. I want all of you to bring 3D printing to women on these countries. If you are giving women jobs and let them have money, they will use it for the betterment of their family. This is working better for women. They will be more innovative.
Local manufacturing can be high and 3D printing is a very low barrier entry. One of things we’ve found interestingly enough for us is that it is an issue but it is not the biggest issue bringing those donations and bring in the financing. It is actually an infrastructure problem in some areas where they don’t have enough power. They don’t have steady electricity and power so you can’t really run your 3D printers as many hours of the day. We are privileged here in the US to be able to run it 24 hours a day. The problem is that we found a lot of the machines and the equipment is not geared so prints are being stopped. It is a constant problem to scrap everything and start again. It is also a design problem flaw in the equipment software. That has to change to in order to make this happen. It would be admirable and badly needed.
That was a long term project. Of course you will involve more companies not just the women in 3D printing. I started talking to people who work at Field Ready. They actually go to other countries where there happened to be a catastrophe. This is like catastrophic solutions in situations such as this. Women in 3D printing does not necessarily have to be in those conditions. It depends on the country and their situation. What’s really interesting in 3D printing is that it gathers a lot of skills.
You have to learn how to design something to know what you will print. It also involves business skills. You need to know how to use 3D printer. You need to know how to sell it. I am talking about many skills here. It is all about collaboration. You have to be very good to be able to design something and be able to be true to good ideas. It is so important to spread the word of 3D printing. Making sure that everyone is gathering and having ideas on what the next big thing is going to be.
It is really an interesting concept. It needs to have a lot of non-tech support in all kinds of jobs, marketing, management and sales. At the same time, it is a closed network that we have in 3D printing. We have to open that up, because that starts at all generations. Getting that non-tech view is really important in 3D printing, being able to roll that out in other countries and being able to have all of those things that are necessary. It requires a whole lot of people, not just people with tech skills.
We believe that there is going to be such an interesting place for 3D printing. When my girls grow up and know about 3D printing, it would be a fascinating place since their three-dimensional thinking skills that they’re going to have by having that in a consistent basis is going to be fantastic. There’s going to be new forms, designs and products that we have never imagined.
We have phones today. We don’t have to think about all the technologies behind us. Those generations will be used to 3D printing and they get to go on thinking out of the box. This is going to blow our mind when we will become older and seeing them doing these things.
Have you been going to idea of getting sponsorships? There is a lot of this in tech industries. There’s a lot of necessity for many of these companies to work with women in 3D printing. It is a necessity to do that because they have a gender gap.
That’s true. I think a lot of them also have to improve. I would love to talk to them on how we’ll be going to work with the industry. To be honest, I haven’t started looking into this. For now, it is really a small group even though we have a total of 500 people following it, it is still not where we wanted to be. I did some talking to potential sponsors and companies about where to go as a next step.
I was really interested about an article recently about the Top Women in 3D printing.
Yes, I was on it. It was All 3D printing. You may be surprised but I was there.
You should be there. You have a very high profile business development manager in Sculpteo. That’s a big deal. You should be on that list. Whether or not you’re seeing a good mix of gender within the members and the users in Sculpteo. Do you have any idea on that? Do you have any imbalance between men and women in terms of people requesting for prints and doing services on companies doing designers’ on your site? Do you see a big gap there?
We are having more males than females. Our service is oriented towards mostly engineers and for some reason; our engineering field is more males than females. This is how the industry is today. Most of our customers today are males. I’ve been a sculptor five years now. It is hard for me to say that there are more women now. I wish I could actually say that.
I really believe that when it becomes something that every mom and dad put it in their house, that’s going to become very second nature for girls and for boys as well. It is going to be a second nature for everyone if we will do that.
I think it is inevitable that there will be many women involved in 3D printing. I’m hoping that it won’t get to the point that there are just as many women involved as men. When you see a youth group, they are all interested in 3D printing. Our girls are tremendously interested. I don’t think that there’s anything about the technology that is inherently of more interest to a boy than a girl.
In the very beginning in the 3D desktop industry, it was more of a coding-hacker community. It’s not the best gateway of the technology for people but now that it is accessible to more people. It is about how you use it and what you do it rather than the technology itself in 3D printer. A lot of the new desktop 3D printers on the market are focused toward consumers that don’t need to know much about it. We actually have a My Mini Toy, a new 3D printer for kids. It is very user-friendly tablet control. There’s no coding in it. Just a early gateway into it. It is only limited by the individuals imagination for they want to do.
I think in some ways we’ve been led into this situation in which the tech of a 3D printer itself still appears intimidating and it shouldn’t.
It is not a question of a capacity. It could be as complex as we want. Women are still doing better than men. That’s a question of access. If we are taking access to school, some points in history, women were not even allowed to be going to school. When we gave them the access, they were doing something better than the men. There are many reports showing that sometimes girls are doing better than boys. It is not a question of a tech user being intimidating especially for young generations because we are used to going to school like guys. It is just a question of giving them an understanding of what they can do. Ensure them that in any fashion, you can still combine it with 3D printing. There’s no reason for you to be either pink or blue, you can be both. Be passionate about fashion in doing 3D printing. I have so many examples of women who are so girly but are also engineers. You have to have stop these imaginary things that women engineers are necessarily not interested in those things.
I totally agree with you Nora. To me, it doesn’t matter what they want to do. If they are making what they like and using 3D printing as a tool, they will learn something on that. Whether they know it or not.
I am not an engineer myself but I happen to be in this industry. I am realizing now that maybe 10 or 15 years ago if I would have knowm about this technology, I would have gone engineering instead. It is really just a question of providing access. We are talking about 3D printing today because that’s what we are and that’s what we know. You should be in some industries, you could be a bio-technologies. You could be anything. You need to have a quality between genders like woman and man. It should be in all industries. There should be no reason why women do less better than men. We have to stop thinking like this. We need to be together to make things work. In the world we are living today, we need more innovations that can not be taught only by man.
I couldn’t agree more especially as we see 3D printing moving more in the consumer retail area. Women are making majority of those purchases that retail.
It is just that we have a content gap right now. It is not necessarily appealing to a mass market world because it isn’t relevant to most women’s lives. We just don’t see the potential and opportunity of 3D printing today. That’s is why we are here; for the change of the content. When not is all techy, it would be a lot easier to get people excited about 3D printing.
So, where can our listeners find your group?
Thank you so much for joining us today Nora.
Thank you so much for having me today. It was great talking to you.
Women in 3D Printing with Nora Toure- Final Thoughts
The most common questions are that, why is there a need to know more about women in 3D printing and why that is important? I think that for any technology, for any business, for anything to succeed, it has to be gender balanced. That is what we have to achieve here because getting women to be involved in 3D printing and getting that balance is really going to help us all in making this market tip. We have to make this as an inclusive, not an exclusive market for the techies only. We need to find a way to make that inclusion happen for women as well. So sometimes there are times we need to highlight them, remind them that they are there. Not only is there a great place for women in 3D printing but this is a great equalizer that women could have difficulty in finding funding and financing.
There is a big investment gap and 3D printing helps lower that investment. That could really help a lot of women in business succeed as well. I can see that 3D printing can be used as a great equalizer in many places. Not just in gender but also in monetary needs. We talked to a lot of people about equalizing and education. There are more women in the world than men by population. This is a big industry and there is room for everybody. If we leave it all to the men it is going to be more on engineering. In this industry we have a lot more engineers than designers. We need some balance. If this industry is going to grow beyond engineering, go mainstream, it has to appeal to women.
With my two decades of experience, I can say that you will be able to develop a good consumer product for women when you involve women in the process of developing those products. That is why I am in business with Tracy. We have different strengths. I am more on the technical side and she is more on the market vision and inspirational side. It’s the blend of both perspectives that makes the best products. Not enough companies do that. There are also not enough women in the product development as I can see. Especially in Asia where there are no women designers in any Asian factories that we have come across.
That is a big disappointment. Another interesting thing that I found when I was speaking to friend of mine, is that she has been asked by a major electronic company to come in and help them figure out how to attract more women. They have had difficulties in attracting and hiring women for their business. So they have been trying to figure out ways on how to do that and it is really interesting. I told her that in the design world we practice this particular process of designing, we call it gender blending. This is where we make it covertly feminine without offending men. This is a way of saying that in order to make sure that the product is going to appeal to women as much as it does to men.
It should be done without making it pink or tiny. The problem that we found is that most women in those companies can’t do it internally. There is an issue on how the culture works. It‘s a problem for women in that culture since it is a male dominated environment. It has nothing to do with that. As women in the workplace we don’t speak up, we self-sensor. We don’t say what we think. We don’t try to point out that we’re women and mothers. We do that because we’re afraid that it diminishes our value. Since that is what we are always told.
I grew up in a household where all genders are equal. My dad believed that there is not anything women cannot do. He works in the oil industry and he chaired the project management groups to train women to move up in the company. I did not find out about it until he retired. Then all these women came up to me and said you have no idea what a mentor your father was. If you have any idea what he has done to make progress for women in this company you would be so impressed. He said to me that he did it because he had daughters.
I think those of us men who live in a household wherein they are the only men in the household, we get a different perspective on the reality of women’s issues. I want my daughters to succeed in anything they want to do regardless of their gender. I don’t want them held back and be paid less because they’re women. They can do anything that they want to. They can do what a man can do. Some of you might disagree but we found out that if you do that, when you gender blend the product and when you bring both viewpoints, it becomes better. You don’t do this in an offensive way. You are not shrinking and pinking. But if you do that everyone is happier, the product sells more. We have seen products sell 20-40% more than products that don’t consider these issues.
Strength in Numbers
Can you imagine what would that do to your 3D printer sales? If you are a 3D manufacturer and you made one that women would like then you could have 20-30% more just by a design change. Or user interphase change there could be so many different aspects to it. When we first designed our first office chair the first thing that we did is to scale it down. We shortened the seat because women are shorter. It sold so much better. And it was just a slight feature change that no one had ever noticed before because they don’t have any women in the design team. So it does not have to be huge changes but if you’re not getting information in the right places, the right money or team, that is not helping you.
I really applaud the efforts that Nora’s championing the women in 3D printing. She has a good following for being it a part-time effort for her. If you know any women in 3D printing who should have been on that list, the list of the top women in 3D printing which Nora is on, let us know. We will try to interview them and we will make a profile of them. We are always looking for equality for those we interview as well. We want to interview people who are interesting and you could learn from. There are so many of them out there to choose from. We have no end of guests in sight. They come up and we sometimes we need to record a quick episode. There is always room for more.
If you have any suggestions please leave a comment below!
- Women in 3D Printing LinkedIn Group
- Interview with Eva Wolf on WomenIn3DPrinting.com
- Women in 3D Printing Facebook
- Women in 3D Printing Twitter
- 3 Ways to Create Gender Harmony in Your Company and Products
- 30 Most Influential Women in 3D Printing
About Nora Toure
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