Women in inkjet – is it for me?

What’s it like to be a woman working in the inkjet printing industry, I hear you ask? When I joined the industry four years ago, it seemed a predominantly male community but with the benefit of more experience I now have a different perspective. Outsiders looking in may think that you can't possibly work in the printing industry if you’re a woman. But I believe they are wrong! I now realise that there are many successful women in a variety of roles in print, from laboratory technicians, R&D chemists and engineers to sales & marketing and senior managers. The industry isn’t all technically orientated and it certainly doesn’t just appeal to men.

Before I started working at IMI Europe, I hadn’t even heard of the term “inkjet’ let alone understand the industry – I’m still learning of course. One thing that I enjoy is being a part of the community – because that’s what we are – we all get stuck in to get to know each other and help each other out. I’ve learned so much about the industry from just talking to people, an aspect which often gets neglected in the digital age.

In a vibrant and growing industry like digital printing, there are so many opportunities for individuals like myself to grow and work their way up the career ladder. It isn’t just about doing your job but more importantly it’s about working together and that’s why I love working in inkjet. Some areas of the printing world may be a bit ‘traditional’ (i.e. stereotypical and sexist) at times but I think we’re rising above that and working together to move beyond that way of thinking.

I often worry that my voice may not be heard because until now I haven’t worked in a technical environment and I don’t have a degree in science or engineering. But should that matter? I’m in marketing so while I don’t need to understand the technology in detail, I do need to understand the applications and different types of inkjet companies to be able to target particular audiences through marketing communications. Even though I don’t have a background in inkjet I do have marketing qualifications and I believe that the general principles of marketing can be adapted and used in any sector.

For myself, I learnt about the industry on the job in a number of ways. I’ve attended some great events such as the Institute of Manufacturing – Inkjet Interest Group dinners, which feature presentations from experts and is rounded off with a dinner and networking at one of the colleges in Cambridge. This is a good opportunity to meet companies and hear experts speak about subjects I’d like to know more about. I also watch webinars such as the ones run by InPrint and these are very useful because I can make notes and listen back to the recording afterwards. Just snippets of information at a time are useful for me. And of course it almost goes without saying that I have learned a lot by going to our own events!

If you’re a woman and looking to get involved in print, I would definitely recommend it. And if you’re already involved but feeling in a minority, don’t worry – there are many more of us out here if you search hard enough!

Kirsty Inman, IMI Europe