When you go looking for stories of women in manufacturing, you quickly realize two things: 1) there are women in every role and every sector shattering boundaries and paving the way for the next generation, and 2) many of these women found manufacturing by chance—and thank goodness they did. Here’s to serendipity and shattering glass ceilings. Let’s meet some of the women who are helping to push additive manufacturing forward.
Boots on the Shop Floor
Haleyanne Freedman, Additive Manufacturing Consultant, Chicago, Illinois
There was a spark the minute her boots hit the shop floor. “I finally felt like I knew where I belonged,” recalls Haleyanne Freedman, an additive manufacturing consultant, of the first time she put on work boots and ventured into a manufacturing facility. A native of California, Freedman took a very unconventional route into manufacturing. She was majoring in nutrition when she had to get a full-time job to support herself. She fell into a position making medical optical lenses. She didn’t love having doctors as customers, but she enjoyed the manufacturing aspect.
“I had more power tools than any one person should own,” Freedman says. “I was always very creative, always making things.” When friends encouraged her to focus on industrial manufacturing, she went on an interview with a machine tool importer. The interview wasn’t the best, but the outcome was excellent.
During the interview, the manager spoke frankly about the company’s adoption of additive equipment. “They had purchased these 3D printers, and he wanted nothing to do with them,” Freedman recalls. “He told me that if I could figure out how to run this new 3D printing department, then I could calculate the ROI and tell him what to pay me.”
With that inauspicious start, Freedman got to work. She spent the first month taking the printers apart and putting them back together. It was then that she finally stepped onto that first shop floor and felt at home. She ended up getting recruited to found and run the 3D Printing division of the largest plastics distribution company in North America for just under 5 years, before seeking out a new challenge at a startup and then venturing out as an independent additive manufacturing consultant.
“My life really began when I started working in manufacturing,” she concludes. “I immediately saw all these different paths — all these incredible opportunities I never knew existed.”
From Policy to Printing
Dana McCallum, Vice President of Sales at Mantle, San Francisco, CA
Dana McCallum, the vice president of sales at Mantle, was well into her degree in human resources from Miami University of Ohio when she scored a great internship at the University’s HR department. Her position started with policy writing. She was done pretty quickly.
“I knew policy writing wasn’t for me. I asked a family friend who I was babysitting for if his injection molding company had any HR internships,” McCallum recalls. “He didn’t, but he gave me a marketing internship. When he took me on the tour of the shop and showed me the machines and the pellets, it was so cool. I was in.”
That was the beginning of her long career in additive manufacturing that eventually led to Mantle. Along the way, McCallum has always been active in professional networking groups. She served as the vice president of the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG). She is also actively involved in Women in 3D Printing. One of the keys to her success, McCallum says, is the consistent support of great mentors and guides.
“I was fortunate to be in positions where women were on the leadership team,” she says. “I’ve also met so many amazing women through Women in 3D printing that have shared their stories and their work. I wouldn’t have met them otherwise!”
Finding more young women who are eager to enter manufacturing is largely a numbers game, McCallum notes. More young women need to realize that manufacturing is an option — and that starts with knowing that the industry exists. “There is so much more that we can do to draw women into manufacturing. It starts with middle school or elementary school. It starts with women just telling their stories, so girls can see there are role models out there.”
Changing What’s Achievable
Faith Oehlerking, Senior Manufacturing Programs Leader, Beehive Industries
Additive manufacturing is poised to change the way we think and design. It is also a notably inclusive space in manufacturing, according to Faith Oehlerking, senior manufacturing programs leader at Beehive Industries.
The child of two engineers, Oehlerking always knew she wanted to go into the field. However, after attending the Colorado School of Mines, traditional manufacturing wasn’t the most attractive option for her until she learned about additive manufacturing.
“Metal manufacturing had a stereotype of being dirty, dangerous, and repetitive, but additive changed the game,” she recalls. “I joined an additive manufacturing startup shortly after graduating and have been in additive ever since. I have a real passion for this work because daily I see how additive has real power to change what was traditionally thought as achievable.”
At Beehive, Oehlerking is part of a team that designs and manufactures jet engines. “What we are doing now wasn’t even possible five years ago,” she says. “We are talking about a 500-pound thrust, additive engine for aerospace applications.”
While working in the additive sector during the early years meant being the first woman at a manufacturing facility in many cases, Oehlerking always found the field welcoming. “I think the additive industry is one of the more inclusive industries for women, and that is partly because of active groups like Women in 3D Printing and how much visibility they give to those with diverse backgrounds.”
Oehlerking continues to be excited about seeing new additive parts and hardware in flight, as well as being involved in reducing development cycles and pushing the speed of aviation innovation.
Learn more about Women in 3D Printing, the global organization that inspired these and so many other women in the additive manufacturing industry. Visit the website for information about events and local chapters.