Women in Print: Pushing the limits By: Sara Bellig

For many of the women in the workforce, competing with men for positions, promotions, equal salary, and respect is nothing new. While Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, which is impressive considering that, according to KQED Learning, they made up only 34 percent in the 1950s. However, when we focus just on the current print industry workforce currently, we see an interesting statistic: only 1 in 10 workers in the industry are female. Harry Mottram, in an article for Print Monthly, wrote that a large part of the female print workforce is employed in the finishing section–- packing, stamping, collating, stitching and other similar finishing processes. A very small number are involved in the actual operation of presses. He says this is surprising, as women have been involved in the process of printing basically since it was born.

To gain insight into the role of women in print, it is important to look back at the history to learn where women in print they started, and what they have overcome. Then, look towards the future, and look at how far women in the industry have come, and at what lies ahead. This article is also fortunate to feature a brief interview with two print professors, who have a combined 60- plus years in the industry. In their own words, they are able to shed some insight and knowledge on what is like to be a woman in the print industry.

(I know this is boring. This whole section I think could be taken out honestly. It would be nice if it was an infographic.) The history of women in print goes all the way back to 1477, to the wife of a Jewish printer , named Estellina. She became known as the first womaen to work as a printer, alongside her husband Abraham Conat. A century later, Dona Reyna emerged as the first woman to own a printing press separate from her husband, making her an important figure in the history of women in print. In the 17th century, printing was a booming business. In Holland, a womaen named Judith Rosanes set up a print shop where she employed 24 men, and oversaw the operations on her own. Meanwhile, in America, Dinah Nuthead took over her husband’s printing business and became the first licensed female printing operator in the colonies. In the 1800s, a woman named Emily Faithful helped to establish the Victoria Press in London, and even took on several young girls to assist in the printing. In 1862, Faithful set up a new steam press, and ended up establishing the Women’s Printing Society which still exists today. In the early days of the Women’s Printing Society, the managers, proofreaders, and bookkeepers were all women. By the 1900’s, a social revolution was taking place. Women were gaining jobs in the work force all over the world, and this of course showed in the printing industry. Women were taking on increasing roles in administration, design, and print finishing.

Now, in the 21st century, many more women have high positions and have gained respect based on their knowledge and how well they do their job, according to printer Lesley Graham in an article for Print Monthly. She also mentions that while great strides have been made for women in the workplace, there are still some small limitations. She mentions that sheShe thinks that some of the “old boys” still look at females as being inferior at the job, and not as good as the men. She does add that this has changed greatly, and made huge progress in the past 10 years. This is echoed in by other women in the industry, including the professors interviewed below. Another worker in the industry, Julia Gaudia of Tthe Printer Quarterm, shares her insight into the industry. “Maybe years ago, I would agree, you wouldn’t find many female press operators with inky fingers, female business owners or female sales negotiators and now it’s completely flipped because women want self-fulfillment. Combined with other skills, companies have accepted a mix of male and females in varying roles. We do like the hands-on approach of us females and the natural passion and enthusiasm to see things from a different view.”

Barbara Bear and Shaun Dudek, are two female Cross-Media Graphics Management professors that who were interviewed for this article, and much of what they saidechoed the quote above. During their time in the industry, they focused on their job and doing it well, rather than dwelling on the limitations. This mentality and outlook is something any person could take into their work place, regardless of gender.

Question: How many years have you worked in the print industry?

Barb: 30 plus.

Shaun: 34 years in the graphics industry, 31 years teaching concurrently.

Question: What was your first job in the industry?

Barb: Typesetter and Paste-Up Artist.

Shaun: Offset Ppress Operator.

Question: What were your initial reasons for choosing the print industry?

Barb: Good jobs, technically interesting, dynamically changing & challenging.

Shaun: The industry kind of selected me. I had failed out of physical therapy major at a private college, and needed a summer job. From this, I was hired and trained as a press operator that summer, and then enrolled at a community college for Graphic Arts Technology.

Question: Have you ever had any negative work experience relating to being a woman?

Barb: No. I really have never given a lot of thought to gender distinction in the workplace. If I was able to do a job, I did it. Preparing myself was my biggest advantage. I sought to be the best I could be. This turned out to be advantageous in ways I never imagined. Acquiring knowledge in the areas of computers, electronics, manufacturing all contributed to eventual work-needed knowledge. There have been some instances of “issues,”, however, dwelling on them presented no strategic advantage.

Shaun: I personally have not experienced any negativity as related to gender and work. Although, because of my first name, I have attended events where someone had thought I was going to be a male attendee from my registration. From that fact, I began adding the title of “Ms.”, when registering for conferences.

Question: Have you ever had any positive work experience relating to being a woman?

Barb: No. Again, I really have never given a lot of thought to gender distinction in the workplace.

Shaun: An example of a positive work experience related to being a woman, I believe, came in the form of praise or complements about my work ethic and work quality, more so than my male colleague’s received.

Question: Any advice you’d give your younger self or other young women trying to start work in print?

Barb: Think of possibilities,; not limitations.

Shaun: Remove the self-doubt; keep learning; give back to others,; and keep finding new motivations for succeeding in this vast graphics industry.

Question: What woman inspires you and why?

Barb: Barbara Jordan. – She combined her knowledge as a lawyer, educator and political leader to work for change–; not by complaining, - but by doing. While she was Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform she argued that "it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest." During Jordan's tenure as a Congresswoman she sponsored or cosponsored over 300 bills or resolutions, several of which are still in effect today as law.

Shaun: My mom, who modeled her own journey that through dedication, persistence, and determination, showed that I could accomplish anything I wanted. She still is working six6 days a week, and makes me tired just thinking of all her activities.

Question: Any other details, stories, experiences, you’d like to share relating to being a woman in a male dominated industry?

Shaun: If Graphic Communication educational institutions are any indication of what is happening in the workplace…it will no longer be a male dominated industry with the next generation of employees. UW-Stout and many of our peer institutions have more than 50 percent%+ female students enrolled, and some near 70-percent%+ female.

For some, breaking in to the male- dominated printing industry has been a long, challenging path. For others, this hasn’t been a large factor, and being a woman has only helped to strengthen them and push them further. Regardless, like most women in the work force, no matter the field, being female in a world of men often requires women to go slightly above and beyond. Not so long ago, the women in the print industry were only there because printing was part of a family- owned business, or because they were married to a print shop owner. They were rarely in positions of power, and were never as well known or recognized as their male counter parts. Now, there are many independent women who run their own companies, are in positions of authority within companies, and have achieved great success over the years. The challenges are not over, but if history is any indication, women in the industry will only continue to break barriers and to grow. As Bear mentioned above, it is important for women to “think of possibilities,; not limitations.”.

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