Might things be different if more women were in charge? While there are many women very successfully running their own studios it would appear that there are still considerably less women doing so than men. Perhaps this is because the long hours and responsibility of running your own studio would appear to outweigh any gains in flexibility? If there were more women at the top, would there be more women in senior positions?
The idea of positive discrimination doesn’t always sit well with those who haven’t personally experienced barriers being put in their way. Kate Moross comments in an article in Design Week: “I’ve pushed back against this ‘women in design’ thing – I’m not a woman in design, I’m a designer. In the case of my own practice I’ve never feel like I’ve struggled because I’m a girl in design.” She then admits that the fact that there are so few high profile women designers has had its advantages: “But I’m also lucky because there are so few women designers out there – so there are about six of us that get invited to do all the talks…”
There is a growing awareness that women need better representation across conferences and events, with sites such as ‘Congrats you have an all male panel’ using humour to highlight this, and various sites which house databases of female experts., giving event organisers no excuse to leave them out. Again, this is something which affects many industries, not just graphic design. However if women are less comfortable with self-promotion generally, it can be difficult to persuade them to actually participate in these various events. Perhaps this is something which needs be addressed in design education, with presentation and self promotion skills taught by experts and treated as a vital part of the curriculum, with marks going towards the student’s final grade?
And maybe it’s time for more of the many thousands of other women graphic designers to take responsibility for making sure their voices are heard – at conferences, events, and in design magazines and blogs. While it’s boring to constantly talk about being a woman in design (and not just a designer), it’s human nature that the status quo will prevail unless some action, however small, is taken. It’s not a question of favouring women over men, just recognising and promoting their achievements on an equal basis.
There is growing awareness thanks to initiatives such as Women of Graphic Design, Graphic Design Birdwatching and of course Women’s Design + Research Unit (WD+RU). An exhibition A+: 100 years of Visual Communication by Women at CSM and an accompanying Twitter campaign (#CelebrateWomen) both launch today.
Gender is only one aspect covered by Graphic Designers Surveyed, and there are many other fascinating and equally revealing areas to explore within, with sections on clients, money and opinions and a comparison between the UK and USA design industries. For a book without any images, it’s surprising visually engaging, with GD&’s comments adding context and commentary to the facts and figures. It might only represent a glimpse of an industry which seems to be constantly in flux, but it’s an important publication, which like many of the best research projects, raises almost as many questions as it answers.
Find out more about GraphicDesign& here, and buy a copy of Graphic Designers Surveyed here.