How can more women take up senior design roles?

Designers and design business experts look at what can be done to increase the representation of women in senior roles at design consultancies.

Nat Maher, Managing Director, Good (London), and founder of Kerning the Gap.

We need to actively encourage the women in our businesses to reach for those roles – then commit the resources, support and mentoring to make it happen. And this isn’t just about women mentoring women either, men are absolutely vital to this process. It’s a business priority, so needs to be everybody’s business. Once we crack this, we’ll start a virtuous circle – the more senior women we have, the more we’ll get. Let’s start insisting upon it.

Georgia Fendley, executive creative director, Construct
Georgia Fendley, executive creative director, Construct

I think women are pretty well represented in senior roles within design consultancies however I think the industry isn’t great at championing their work because it’s great work, as opposed to because they are women. A few weeks ago I was mentioned in a tweet about logos designed by women. It seemed really weird. I can’t imagine my husband (who’s also a designer) having his work described as being designed by a man. I don’t think women want or need any special treatment just to be treated equally – after all we’re pretty good at looking after ourselves (and everyone else!)

John Mathers, chief executive, Design Council
John Mathers, chief executive, Design Council

Our Design Economy research highlighted the full extent of the challenge. The UK’s design workforce is 78.4% male, 21.6% female. So it’s unsurprising there aren’t more female leaders with this level of imbalance. A key problem is that British design education is still reinforcing old-fashioned gender roles. Design is increasingly cross-disciplinary and agile, yet it still suffers from 20th century hangovers – we have to change the culture which says that girls don’t design jet engines. Good designers are good designers, male or female. 

Eliza Easton, policy and research manager of the Creative Industries Federation
Eliza Easton, policy and research manager of the Creative Industries Federation

Carrying out internal audits, advertising flexible hours and making sure you don’t just employ people who look like those already in your business are some steps towards recruiting more women into senior posts – and achieving greater diversity in general. Businesses could also hire female non-executive directors from other industries to add experience at board level. They should recognise that there are enormous economic benefits in having a workforce that mirrors the people they are designing for and understands their interests and needs. We have more practical ideas in our report.

Aileen Geraghty, managing director 999
Aileen Geraghty, managing director 999

Belief. Encouragement. Trust. Action. I’m a believer. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a real mix of talented women in the industry, and believe that change is coming, but not quickly enough.

Our industry (both men and women) can help by really embracing the need for change – encouraging talented women who want to progress, and those who don’t yet believe they can. Look around, the talent is there. But is the belief, encouragement and action?

Surely this fantastic creative industry would only benefit from a reawakening of who leads and who learns – and how best to do ‘it’.

What better an industry to showcase that talent (and hard work) will take you places – nothing more, nothing less.

What do you think? Comment below…

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