The Why Behind the Jurassic Surprise at Automate 2023

Seven women band together for a memorable dino walk to stomp out misconceptions surrounding women in manufacturing and engineering.

Dinosaurs gathering before stampeding the trade show floor.

If you were at Automate last week, then there’s a chance you saw a herd of dinosaurs roaming the trade show floor and wondered, “What the hell?”


That was me, along with Sami Birch (Mission Design and Automation), Courtney Fernandez (Universal Robotics Group), Alicia Gilpin (Process & Controls Engineering, LLC and Automation Ladies), Nikki Gonzales (Quotebeam and Automation Ladies), Emily Wilkins (Marketing Metal), and Ann Wyatt (Ann Wyatt Recruiting and Workforce 4.0). 

So, why did the seven of us get together, put on blow-up dinosaur costumes, and stampede around Automate 2023? Outside of it being absolutely hilarious and fun, we had several reasons.

Stomping Out Barriers and Challenging Stereotypes

Left to right: Sami Birch, Emily Wilkins, Ann Wyatt, Will Healy, Alicia Gilpin, Nikki Gonzales, Meaghan Ziemba (kneeling).

Manufacturing has been predominantly male for decades. Women “make up about 30% of the 15.8 million people employed in manufacturing industries, and only 1 in 4 manufacturing leaders are women.”   

Also, many misconceptions surrounding the sector discourage those outside it from pursuing career opportunities within engineering and manufacturing. Opinions of the industry being dirty, dark, dangerous, and dull are starting to die down; however, some still believe that it’s a place for only math and science geniuses, it lacks creativity, and the best one yet–robots are taking over.  

To stomp out the barriers and make the negative stereotypes extinct, we decided to bring awareness to the fun, innovative, and creative career pathways in a memorable way. Who isn’t going to talk about the dinosaurs in the room?

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion 

For as long as U.S. manufacturing and engineering has been male-dominated, it has also been predominantly white. However, diversity involves more than ethnicity in manufacturing and engineering, including age, gender, culture, and personal experiences. 

A lack of diversity is not good for anyone’s bottom line. Numerous articles have highlighted the benefits of diversifying the sector, including: 

  • A larger talent pool to help close the skills gap. 
  • An increased customer reach. 
  • Enhanced innovation and critical problem-solving. 
  • Higher return on equity, increased profitability, and better valuations.

Parading around in different dino suits at Automate was our way of embracing diversity and inclusion. There is a place for everyone in engineering and manufacturing. Whether you enjoy building stuff with your hands or prefer writing and marketing, the sector is filled with enjoyable, challenging, and stimulating opportunities for everyone. Things are changing, and it’s an exciting time to hop on the bandwagon.

Encouraging and Empowering Women

Left to right: Alicia Gilpin, Courtney Fernandez, Emily Wilkins, Sami Birch, Meaghan Ziemba

For women to succeed in male-dominated industries like engineering and manufacturing, we must get the right support, especially from one another. Ask any woman in the sector who one of their mentors is, and I bet money they give you a guy’s name. We love our male allies; however, it’s also beneficial to surround ourselves with other supporting women. 

That’s why the seven of us got together and followed through with the dino walk. We want to showcase the massive contributions that women have made and continue to make in engineering, manufacturing, and the trades. We are a huge force behind the success of the U.S., and our voices matter. 

Our presence is much better compared to five and ten years ago, but several of us have felt isolated in our communities because our numbers are still small. Most of us have built strong friendships over social media, and the tribes we’ve created have been a massive help to our continued success. 

The seven of us want other women to know we’re here for them. If you are a woman in this space with any questions or concerns, contact us and we’ll help connect you to the right people and resources. We’re more about collaborating than competing with each other. 

Side note: It’s also comforting to know that if I am at a trade show and need a tampon, more women are around to ask, and I don’t get grossed out looks from them. Just keeping it real. 

Inspiring Future Generations

I’m seeing a lot of positive progress in how we’re promoting this sector to the next generation, but there is still room for improvement, and I haven’t met a kid (or an adult for that matter) that doesn’t like dinosaurs. 

As my good friend Emily Joann Wilkins pointed out, “Drastic times call for Jurassic measures. We’re living in a world divided and uncertain. Asteroids of Radical change are destroying old ways of doing things. That gives us the opportunity of a lifetime: to bring creativity, curiosity, and connection to an industry that’s dying for it. Women and minorities are key, but we need to show them that they’re welcome and valued in manufacturing–and that it’s a Rawrsome place to be!”

While we did receive negative feedback from some of the current dinosaurs of the sector, we got way more positive reactions from the overall crowd, which is what we were aiming for. This sector isn’t “stuffy.” It’s fun, sexy, exciting, challenging, and rewarding, and it’s damn time we start publicizing it to the masses, especially women and BIPOC communities.

It’s time for all of us to walk the walk. 

Manufacturing and engineering are essential to our economic stability and national security. If we fail to attract more diverse talent, then we risk losing our competitive edge to the rest of the world. 

What are some of the things you are doing to bring attention to the opportunities available? 

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