As you’ll no doubt have already noticed, today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the achievements of women, whether that be political, economic or social.
We were pleased to see women from the creative industries, such as architect Zaha Hadid and graphic novelist and Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi, represented in The Guardian’s Top 100 Inspiring Women (published in today’s G2), even if the list only yields one designer in the shape of fashion heavyweight Stella McCartney.
But International Women’s day should not just be about celebrating influential women, it should be about addressing the persistent gender inequalities that make such a day necessary in the first place.
Sadly, the design industry is just as susceptible to gender inequality as other more traditionally-minded professions. Design Council research has found that that although 70 per cent of design students are women, 60 per cent of the industry is male.
And this inequality is not just an issue that affects senior positions in design. In last year’s Design Week Rising Stars supplement, published in October 2010, only one of our 14 stars – nominated by industry experts and peers – was female.
Design Week features editor Emily Pacey commented at the time, ‘The nominators put [that lack of women represented in the supplement] down to the great number of women who leave design early on in their careers, proving yet again that the industry has a long way to go to accommodate women’s professional requirements and to keep valuable talent feeding the beating heart of design.’
Rising Star Valeria Hedman, the winner of the interiors category, told London-based organisation Birdwatching, ‘That women are less visible in the industry I believe is a complex mix of lack of recognition, entrepreneurship and self-promotion – in that order.
‘So women do need to support each other and give encouragement to strengthen their position (this can also happen with support from men) and speak with the same voice to get the same recognition (and earning power) for equally good work.’
Birdwatching itself launched last year to discuss the issues affecting women in the industry as well as giving recognition to talented practitioners. It provides a creative network, website and programme of talks and exhibitions that promote and celebrate the work of female graphic designers and creators around the globe.
So, lack of recognition, not enough energy spent accommodating women’s professional requirements or a reluctance to ruthlessly promote themselves – what do you think the issues are for women in the design industry? Whatever your sex, we’re keen to hear your views.