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Challenges Facing Women in the Design Industry in 2022

This week, Creative Boom asked me to contribute to an article about the challenges for women in the design industry and how to overcome them.
This topic regularly comes up in many conversations with my female creative friends – especially since many of my peers are reaching a time where evolving to a more senior or director position feels like the natural next step. It’s always exciting to regroup and share our experiences (and sometimes frustrations).
Creating a supportive bubble of fellow creatives, and keeping the conversation going, has certainly helped me to understand some of the issues women are facing in our industry beyond my own reality. It helps us to build confidence and understand what we can do differently moving forward, but also what impact we could have on the new generation of women creatives: The end goal is to match the women eager to be part of an industry that claims to be progressive, with an industry that actually is — but we are not there yet.
So what did those chats with my friends and my own experience teach me?
Interestingly during my career, I have never been interviewed by a female creative director (but not that surprising when you know that only 14% of them are women). The sheer lack of representation in high level positions undoubtedly impacts the view of where your career will go, even before entering the design industry as a young female designer. While it’s amazing to celebrate when colleagues and peers access director roles or create their own studios, the fact we can name them proudly shows that they are still an exception.
The on-going articles and debates on this topic make it easier to understand why it’s so hard to reach the top — and why some give up. There remain structural obstacles that we have to face within design businesses, whether it is salary parity or ‘one size fits all’ development paths that hinder our chances of promotion.
I believe that women employee development should come hand-in-hand with a personal and considerate approach, but it can only happen in a business that is willing to address the gender divide issues in every business operation, values, culture and processes. Gender bias is everyone’s responsibility, and being part of a business that values women’s voices, ensuring that we are a part of the discussion when it comes to decisions is key.
At ShopTalk, I feel that I can influence the way that the business can grow, from day-to-day conversation to bringing awareness about the benefits that can attract women at any stage of their life. And recently, I felt I have a bigger role to play in developing the type of opportunities the agency creates; as when it comes to equality in the creative industry, the issues go beyond gender. For me, from art school to a professional context, the lack of diversity; colour and background to name only two, has been, and remains a continual issue.
Beyond some discussions around lack of representation, it’s a topic I rarely felt empowered to talk about before today. To me, being a woman designer was enough of a differentiator. But I realised people’s behaviour is constantly evolving, and the team around me always wants to learn how to be better, starting here at ShopTalk. This also gives me a reason to celebrate the progress that is being made when it comes to diversity and representation.
While more tools for inclusion exist, this is something we should and can actively address day-to-day. A diversity based recruitment strategy is only part of the job — the key to real progress is in the creation of an inclusive environment with aware, supportive and mindful leadership and colleagues, so that designers from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and can express themselves. This will always lead to a better and richer work environment and, in fact, better design and creative that resonates with the world you are designing for.
While the progress can feel slow on these subjects, there are many opportunities for change that can only happen with the support of others, from the top and also around you. It’s important that everyone feels empowered to tackle these issues and help to change the view of women, and women of colour within our industry.
Coralie Carré, Design Director