Digital sisters are able to cross all boundaries

A few years ago I chaired a debate on sexism in design. And while the consensus of participants was that there was little discrimination in the industry, no one could quite explain why so few women held high rank in the business, other than those who’d set up on their own or with their spouse.

Things have changed a bit, with more women now holding senior design roles, but mainstream consultancies still tend to be led by men – albeit that many, scarred by economic battles or desperate for new challenges, are looking to sell out and move on.

Women in new media seem to find it easier to make a mark. US stars such as April Greiman have led the way in this emerging culture and the sisters have been keen to follow on both sides of the Atlantic. While the subject is still being defined, there’s great scope for academics and teachers – jobs in which women have traditionally shone. But it’s more likely the eclectic routes that new media folk are taking that have opened up the opportunities. There is just as much validity in Karen Mahony (see feature, page 19) quitting embroidery to enter the digital field as people with degrees in music or sociology. Long may this trend continue and become more widespread.

Eclecticism is at the root of the best new media design. It’s about communication, but the need for 3D thinking and easy access puts it beyond the usual communication skills – and it’s sad that so many graphics groups are erroneously claiming expertise in new media when their clients might be better served by a referral to another agency.

On a different note, it’s good to see design back on the Parliamentary agenda with a debate in the House of Lords scheduled for last Monday (see News, page 3). And we have a new champion in developer Lord Palumbo, a seasoned fighter for modern architecture.

But Palumbo’s timely move raises an old question. What has happened to the All Party Group on Design? Does it still have conviction or will design only make it on to General Election manifestos if it can be seen to win votes?

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