Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel discussion for General Assembly (https://generalassemb.ly) and She Says (http://weareshesays.com), alongside a group of brilliant women working in different areas of the creative industries, in a senior capacity. We were there to discuss the challenges facing women in creative, and the opportunities for change.
Females outnumber males in design schools, but once in the workplace, that changes significantly (78% of working designers are males1). Where do these young women go, and why aren’t they working in the industry? Are they not getting hired or are they not applying? The disparity gets even worse in senior creative roles - only 12% of Creative Directors are female2. So not only do women not enter the workplace at the same rate as men, they also do not progress through the ranks.
When discussing possible explanations, we came back to confidence time and time again. From a young age, girls are called bossy, while boys are called leaders. Are we really setting our girls up for failure? As a mother of a young girl, this was a startling revelation to me – one that I hope to carry with me as I try to raise a smart, confident, kind, and happy person. And of course, we as parents carry a big responsibility in raising confident kids, but as a senior female creative, the responsibility extends to my professional life. It’s on us to help the next generation not only get through the door, but to thrive, and being part of this panel really opened my eyes to the opportunities we have to drive change.
At the end of the session, a couple of attendees asked for advice on how to overcome lack of confidence in their professional lives. And of course, we are not all extroverts who can burst into a room and own it; in fact, most of us probably aren’t. But that’s where the role of mentoring comes in, and senior creatives can make a real difference. If we’re interviewing someone who is struggling with confidence, we can make an extra effort to see their potential, not just their persona. If we notice someone being overlooked, let’s help build them up. And of course, as the industry changes and more women reach senior levels, there are more role models for young women to look up to.
At the end of the day, being a male or a female isn’t going to make you a better creative. But if simply being female stands in the way of even getting a chance to try – let’s change it. For the sake of all those young girls in design school. And for the sake of the industry.
The Design Economy: The value of design to the UK, Design Council, 2015
Kristina Ryan Senior Creative at mr.h, a multi-disciplinary advertising and marketing agency, that specialises in the travel and luxury sectors.