Age and Gender in Automation

The generational shift we have been bracing for in the Automation industry may have happened with far less fanfare than expected. In 2010, we were an industry dominated by males over the age of 50. The guys who cut their teeth with the advent of PLC had largely stayed in the industry they pioneered. Industry events were an unofficial case study in male pattern baldness and the samples leaned towards the later stages. We feared the knowledge vacuum that would be created as the workforce neared retirement.

Guess what? It happened.

While not a definitive study, these are the demographics of visitors over the last 12 months. I won’t share our exact data set, but the chart reflects results from well over a quarter million unique visitors. Our traffic is dominated by views of technology-related pages featuring information on Modbus, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET and the like. Needless to say, we don’t have any “hip” topics or secret Justin Bieber fan pages skewing our data toward younger demographics.


Goodbye Metamucil and Butterscotch Candy:

We are now a market of young professionals. More than 50% of the sample is under 35 years of age and less than 10% is over 50. That is a massive generation transition that took place in the last 5 years. While the transition is daunting, what’s more intriguing to me is how little disruption the transition has caused.

The sky didn’t fall. Customers calling about maintaining legacy Modbus RTU, DF1 and DH+ applications didn’t disappear with the guys that originally implemented the systems. We now have people integrating serial networks that never experienced serial-based PC peripherals. That hasn’t seemed to impede their ability to deliver.

At the end of the day, the industry continues to charge forward with the labors of a new generation.  

Sadly, it’s Still a Man’s World

We successfully transitioned a generation but did very little to attract females to the industry. 12% is a significant improvement over data from a decade ago but certainly leaves much to be desired. The industry continues to be male-dominated.

There are many historical reasons to explain why the industry is male-dominated now, but there are no reasons that trend should continue. There is a wholesomeness that comes with a diversity of gender, creed, and experience. We continue to lack that.

A New Outlook

Automation is now, in many respects, a young man’s game. That’s not meant to disrespect any generation that came before. Rather, I see that as a challenge to my generation. We are the driving labor force and will shortly become the leaders driving the automation industry.

  • Where will we take it?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will the transition of technology and users born-tech-savvy shape the next quarter-century of automation?

I won’t pretend to have the answers but I’m excited to be part of it.