Inspirational story about gender-inclusive making

Katrin Batko
Happy Lab, Austria

Katrin first studied social- and cultural anthropology and specialised herself in diversity management, to then also study web development with an emphasis on UX design. She worked in different technology-oriented institutions in the fields of science communication and UX Mangement , and organized ICT events and workshops for women and girls.

“You do not have to study everything; you also learn how to do this simply by doing it.”

Katrin considers herself a maker, as she has already realized many different projects, including the crafting of her own furniture.

“One might think that simply buying stuff is easier, but it is so much fun to create your own stuff specifically addressing your needs. And you do not have to study everything; you also learn how to do this by simply doing it.”

Currently, Katrin is working on the “TMBR Scooter”, a wooden e-scooter, with a focus on sustainability and local sources. Having received positive feedback at a manufacturing start-up hub, she joined a local network to continue her work in the Happylab, the local makerspace she is a member of. She also started doing a course on bicycle mechatronic to better understand and design the TMBR Scooter.

“Of course, making is an iterative process, and not everything planned fits at the first attempt”, she says. 

According to Katrin, making is often dominated by cis hetero men and sometimes it is hard to be “the only woman – or person read as a woman – in a space or workshop, especially, when the environment makes you feel different or special.” Physical barriers, such as inaccessible toilet facilities, or machines only adapted to the height and weight of tall persons, exclusive visual materials, and non-inclusive language are still persistent in some workshop spaces.

As a woman, “I am probed about my technological background and skills, while men next to me are not, with the persistent assumption: every man is able to repair a car or a bicycle.”

While visibility of female and non-cis male makers is important, it also needs more women being employed at maker spaces to support other makers with their projects. Also, the support mechanism of funding schemes often end at age 30, and thereby exclude women who start a family, as care-work is unequally shared, and others, who simply cannot afford to start their own business this early.

Message to her younger self:

“I was stressed not to find a job and had the idea that I needed to pursue a certain chronology, going to university first to then find a job and climb up the ladder of career early on. I know now that there is no ‘right’ chronology, but that you have to take away the pressure and trust your intuition to make decisions. You do not have to finish something that does not feel right to you, but rather start something else. Learning is something that continues throughout life and I love to study next to my job, because it makes me really happy.“

For further inspiration: