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A Quick Resource on Gender Balance
Yuki Zhong
International Women's Day graphic
There’s been progress but more can be made. What can we do as women and as allies to balance the scales further in the industry? In celebration of Women’s History Month, let’s discuss all the ways we can empower more women in the field of design & tech.

IWD 2019: Balance

Every year, on March 8th, International Women’s Day celebrates a global movement for women’s rights and achievements. This year, the campaign theme for the celebration is #BalanceforBetter. Balance makes our world a better place. Gender balance, in terms of representation in the workplace, improves our decision-making by bringing more voices together. Work-life balance, in terms of family and employment, increases the sense of well-being and belonging. Mental and physical balance, with respect to health and self-care, ensures that we are always ready to take on exciting challenges that come our way.

What does it take to achieve such balances in an industry plagued by gender-based discrimination and dominated by men? A staggering 70% of graphic design students are women, yet only 11% are creative directors. Within the top 100 tech companies, women only make up about 16% of the technical roles, 23% of leadership roles, and only 6% of the chief executives. The situation is worse in the infamous Silicon Valley, where women hold only 11% of executive positions. Whether you are a woman in the industry or a male ally looking for ways to help, there are steps you can take to bridge the gap. In fact, you are already well on your way because you are reading articles like this one! ?

How YOU Can Affect Change

Women, and especially younger women, are more likely to doubt their actions in the workplace and worry about what other colleagues think. Julie Zhuo, VP of Product Design at Facebook, “has found that these voices are often wrong because they’re projections of her own fears, and that her imagination is always scarier than reality.” You can learn to counter these fears and develop trust in your own skills and knowledge.

Positive results from past business decisions or supportive feedback from colleagues can offer comfort when self-doubt hits. Take those experiences and document them however you journalize best. It helps to develop a quantifiable track record that serves as a reminder of all the right decisions you’ve made and their positive impacts. If you start to worry about what colleagues think of you, why not ask them out for a coffee? Rather than guessing whether or not a colleague approves, it’s more constructive to seek feedback on how to work better together. Your worries might just be unwarranted projections.

As you continue to seek constructive feedback and increase self-awareness, you will become more confident, resilient, and optimistic.

Intersectionality is essential if we want to talk about Diversity and Equality

Anytime you see a need for change, you must start from within. Empowerment starts within each of us and if we believe it, the industry will start to believe it too. Your acumen, determination, confidence, and resourcefulness will resonate with other women around you and only grow stronger. Together, we can change the imbalance in the industry, one woman at a time.

How Allies Can Empower Women

If you are a manager, executive, or colleague, you can empower female coworkers by trying to understand them better. You may not be able to share their lived experiences but you can empathize with their points of view. Did you know that women are less likely to put themselves up for promotion? Additionally, when paired with female mentors, women are more likely to succeed and find fulfillment within their careers. Managers and colleagues can bridge gaps by connecting women with helpful mentors and resources, recognizing them for their achievements, and initiating more conversations to build career progressions.

How Companies Can Show Their Support

Company-wide female empowerment initiatives show an institutional level of commitment to support women. The right combination of resources, communities, and networks, can positively challenge women and contribute towards better representation.

Google’s Women Techmakers: This global program aims to provide visibility, community, and resources to empower women in the industry. Programming includes meetups, events, scholarships, and more.
Salesforce Trailblazing Women: With this series of events, Salesforce hopes to “build a network for women ready to rock the status quo, break barriers to success, and lead the way forward.” In addition, Salesforce has made a strong commitment towards equal pay by conducting regular audits of employee salaries to identify and address statistically significant, gender-based pay gaps.
Ultimate Software’s Women in Leadership: Ranked #1 on Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Women in 2018, this company has a Community of Interest called Women in Leadership that offers networking, social, and community service events to promote inclusivity.

Community Resources to Empower Women

In addition to company-specific initiatives, there are local communities that offer additional support for women in tech. Check out some of these awesome organizations:
Ladies, Wine, & Design: This initiative strives to create an inclusive and safe space for women in design to support one another through mentorship circles, portfolio reviews, talks, and creative meet-ups.
Graduate School of Design’s Women In Design: This student-run organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design aims to increase visibility of women in design, create a nurturing community with ample opportunity for personal and professional development within the campus, and to publicly advocate for gender equality.

Connecting with More Women in Design

Need a little more?
Women who design: Twitter handles of women in the industry, in various cities, categorized by job title.
Women who draw: An open directory of female illustrators around the world.
Women and Color: An online community of women and people of colour throughout North America who are available to speak at tech related events.
AIGA Women Lead Initiative: A committee aimed to empower more women in design by way of shared resources, focused programs, and events.

As the saying goes, it takes a village. In order to promote more women into leadership roles, it requires support from large-scale institutions, strong allies, as well as each and every one of us who believe in and are committed to the cause. When companies have more gender-balanced leadership teams, they will become more diverse, inclusive, innovative, and productive.

Are you a female design leader hoping to change things for the better? In honour of Women’s History Month, Design Leadership is launching a #women-in-lead channel in our Slack group to promote discussions around equal representation in the field. Request an invite to join the community and connect with other like-minded leaders around the world. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out some of the speakers from our 2018 Summit — we’ll be hosting another one later this year!

Design Leadership is an initiative of DesignX.


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