Only a fifth of design jobs are filled by women, research shows

The Design Museum has analysed research which shows that although nearly three-quarters of those taking design A-Levels are women, most of these students are not making it into associated careers.

Hella Jongerius at her recent exhibition at the Design Museum. © Luke Hayes.

London’s Design Museum has revealed that women are not making it into design jobs, and that there has not been much improvement in gender equality in the industry over the last 14 years.

The research, originally published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in March this year, has been analysed by the museum, which found that women are dropping out of – or not making it into – the industry after completing education.

The research shows that 22% of those working in jobs associated with design are women, which is an increase of only 4% compared to similar research undertaken in 2004.

Majority of A-Level design students are women

However, at A-Level, young women make up roughly 70% of entrants for design-related subjects.

According to the Design Museum, disciplines where women are particularly under-represented include architecture, civil engineering, town planning, software design, product design and fashion.

The museum has analysed the research as it is set to launch a two-day series of events entitled Women Design, which will shed light on gender inequality in the industry as well as celebrate the achievements of both known and unknown female designers from history.

The two-day conference is hosted by design curator and author Libby Sellers, who this year published a book called Women Design, which tells the stories of 25 influential female designers.

Also taking place as part of the event is the launch of the museum’s Designers in Residence programme, which supports new designers across disciplines, giving them a space in the museum to research and develop their practice for a year – this year, all the resident designers are women.

“This shows how far we have to go to reach equality”

The event also coincides with exactly 100 years since women’s suffrage, when some women (those aged over 30) were first given the right to vote in the UK.

“These figures show just how far we have to go to reach equality,” says Alice Black, co-director at the Design Museum. “The fact that the percentage of women working in design has remained virtually unchanged since 2004 shows a real failure to draw on all the talents out there and promote inclusiveness in our industry.

“We must take this moment to commit to work together to put measures in place to improve gender diversity, in all sectors of the workforce,” she adds. “This means increasing the number of girls taking up design-related subjects in schools, and encouraging recent graduates to become product designers and civil engineers.”

Not enough women in public-speaking roles

Sellers adds that women are not only outnumbered by men in designer jobs specifically but also those roles surrounding the profession, such as writing and public speaking. This includes contributing to and editing publications, taking part in conferences, and sitting on judging panels.

“Perhaps, as we will do through Women Design, by highlighting some of the historical injustices and seeking out and celebrating role models, we might be able to create a discernible difference,” she says.

Women Design takes place on 7 and 8 December 2018 at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, Kensington, London W8 6AG.

Speakers include Pentagram partner Marina Willer, and creative directors Nelly Ben Hayoun and Frith Kerr. Tickets cost £20 per day, or £15 for Design Museum members and concessions. For more information and for the full line-up, head here.

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