Hayley Maynard, our Senior Design Consultant, shares her experiences.
When I was at university, just over 5 years ago, the design course at Loughborough was relatively gender balanced, so why is that not reflected in the workplace today?
After graduating from university, my dream was to work in product and industrial design. My work experience in America and the four year university course had fuelled my desire for design and confirmed it was the career for me. Fast forward to today and I am a Senior Designer at KD and a founding member of XX Equals. However, being a female product designer can be lonely, which is why we need a female design movement.
Realising post university, that I worked in a male dominated industry was a shock. 2018 Design Council figures show that 95% of people employed in product & industrial design are male. These abysmal figures were not a surprise to me as I was living their reality every day. They highlight the appalling fact that I am one of the few senior women in the industry. I need to start speaking out and start making the change.
There are two important aspects that relate to these figures. Firstly, the obvious one, there is a lack of women in design roles at all levels, and secondly, intuitive to the first, is that there are very few products empathetically designed by women for women.
I fully acknowledge that diversity is far broader than gender and but for this article I will be focussing on my experiences as a woman in design/gender in particular. Equally, gender is far broader than binary male and female definitions, so when I refer to women I am describing anyone who identifies as a woman.
Equality & Quality
Increasing the number of women in design is vitally important for product development, growth and innovation. It is about equality and quality. It makes good business sense to have a gender diverse team collaborating on projects. As designers we solve challenges, so assembling a team of individuals who bring different sensibilities, perspectives and life experiences will increase and diversify ideas and solutions, whether you are designing specifically for a small sub-set of society or inclusively.
The key to success is your team; the bringing together of the right people in an environment where creativity can thrive. I believe re-configuring your team to level the gender imbalance could be the best investment you can make and lead to a sales edge and an increase in profits.
The purchasing power of women is huge. Fact! Women account for 85% of all consumer product sales and over 93% of OTC healthcare sales.* (ref) Women drive household spending; they are influencers and they are a missed opportunity. They want and deserve products which are tailored to their unique and variegated needs.
So, does the design process consider women? From stab vests that don’t account for breasts, to phones too large for small female hands, products often do not truly account for women. Product design is failing women, a subject dealt with by Caroline Criado Perez in Invisible Women, which I strongly recommend all designers read.
The latest example ‘Pinky Gloves’ was created by three male founders. These gloves were designed to allow women to dispose of their period product hygienically. However, they had failed to establish if this was a genuine need, reinforced the taboo that periods are dirty and contributed to additional waste. While they admitted they have some blind spots, imagine if they had looked at period care with a gender diverse team and engaged with menstruators to truly understand their needs, before launching their product to market.
We cannot assume that male designers can’t create amazing products for women, but why would you not want the female perspective reflected and represented in the design process and as part of the design decision making team.
At XX Equals we are examining equality and quality. We are building a world class, gender diverse team. Whilst also defining what a female focussed design process or ‘playbook’ looks like, from insight gathering to reviewing design concepts. We want to hear your thoughts and hope you will join the discussion and our female design revolution.
Equality and quality in design is a winning combination. When we make this the ‘norm’, exceptional design will thrive.