Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby Jro555 » February 13th, 2013, 6:31 pm

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smyoung wrote:Question: Why are there so few women working as an industrial designer? ( females make up just 20% of the field, stated in FastCo. article http://www.fastcompany.com/1353548/forg ... -unleashed) Are there any studies/surveys conducted that seek reasons as to why this is the case?

Prior to landing a full-time ID position, I did notice a off-set number between men and women in my previous internships/freelancing jobs. Didn't think much of it. During college, Femme Den from Smart Design presented at our school of successful case studies they've conducted with various companies. Again, I didn't really give it much thought then. My graduating class of '09 were a good mix of men and women... Fast forward 3.5 years, I'm already seeing about a 30% drop in number of girls working as an industrial designer within my graduating class. Many left to pursue fashion, graphic, marketing, crafts..etc.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining that women are not equally treated/paid/respected. I am really, really, discouraged that this is just the reality, and would like to get your thoughts on why this might be the case (so that I myself can better prep to possess all facet of skills in the future). I had some theories of my own,...so feel free to tag along as well.

-Lack of mechanical engineering experience or understanding
-Lack of interest in how things work, how things are manufactured
-lack of historical support of female role in ID?
-Physical strength not meeting up to men? (handling tools and machinery)
-Maternity leave?
-Doesn't take design seriously enough? ( poor quality of portfolio?)

I'm also curious........
If you are a hiring manager, what kind of differences did you notice in portfolio between men and women?
What kind of characteristics/skills did women lack that were comparable to men?

Thanks in advance for your input.
And please, omit any negative comments! :)


Sorry I missed this earlier, but would like to comment even if I am late to the party.

Like the OP, I felt my class of fellow IDers at Pratt was a very even mix of male to female (back in 2006). Once I began working in the field however, I've only ever worked with one other female ID co-worker. I know that 6 years in the field is short but thanks to an "interesting" economic climate, I have worked in a variety of offices and industries.

The possible theories the OP suggests sounds more like possible determents to females choosing the ID profession, I would like to think that once they have completed their ID education most of these theories don't make sense as an obstacle to joining the workforce.

I cannot say I have met much adversity in the workforce being a female industrial designer, most co-workers have been nothing but happy and helpful to work with me. I really enjoyed the time I have working with another female IDer, we became good friends and keep in touch even though we are on opposite sides of the Earth now (can't say that for most of my male colleagues). I worked in lighting, medical, and footwear and felt I was treated fairly and no differently then my male colleagues.

I now work in the motorsports industry and it is very challenging, particularly as a female. I am again the one and only female designer, and not even as an Industrial designer but now as a graphic designer. I do suspect my gender played a role in which design position I was appointed to. I am not discouraged though, I have my foot in the door and will work to put myself back in the product development side of things. Perhaps this is the case with many other fellow female IDers- in order to find ourselves in the industry we want we have to take these stepping stones to leap to our desired positions.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby yo » February 20th, 2013, 10:14 pm

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Thought this recent piece on Zaha Hadidi might be of interest:
http://hyperallergic.com/65471/zaha-had ... rchitects/

Zaha Hadid’s Candid Critique on Misogyny Against Female Architects
by Allison Meier on February 20, 2013

Responding to research on discrimination against women architects, Zaha Hadid, one of the top female architects and the first woman to be honored with the Pritzker Prize (an incredibly prestigious award in the industry), has stated that she herself experienced difficulties in working in the United Kingdom.

In an interview with the Observer, she stated: “It is easier for me in European countries than it is here [in London]. There is a different dynamic. In the UK it is more difficult. They are very conservative. There is a skepticism and more misogynist behaviour here. Although, while there were people against me, there were also people living here who were incredibly supportive.” She apparently was encouraged more to take on residential projects than commercial (she added that “I am sure that as a woman I can do a very good skyscraper.”) and felt that women were directed to work more on “interior shapes.”

Hadid was partly reacting to recent research by the Architects Journal into women architects and their careers, reporting that 2/3 of them experienced “insidious” bullying from men at work and 60% of them felt their clients did not respect their authority. Furthermore, 20% of the registered architects are women, despite there being about the same number of men and women studying architecture, and that of these women architects, the majority earned less than men doing the same jobs.

“It is a very tough industry and it is male-dominated, not just in architectural practices, but the developers and the builders too,” Hadid told the Observer. “I can’t blame the men, though. The problem is continuity. Society has not been set up in a way that allows women to go back to work after taking time off. Many women now have to work as well as do everything at home and no one can do everything. Society needs to find a way of relieving women.”

Notably, participants in the Architects Journal survey also ranked Hadid on a list of “the greatest contributors to the status of women in the architectural industry.” Her comments are remarkable not just in confirming that discrimination against women in terms of position and salary is a continued problem (and not just one in architecture), but also that she has had some impressive success in that environment.


Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby Waxy » February 22nd, 2013, 10:28 am


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In my experience, it seems that the folks who get hired fit a desired "type"- for instance I worked in one place where it seemed like all the new people coming in were Asian women, or elsewhere, all the Marketing folks will be blondes, etc.

It seems (to me) that people like to hire people they think they will be comfortable with/around, and that overwhelmingly seems to mean that they look/act the same. On one level, I get this- that's kind of how we "choose" our friends, right? You just seem to gravitate towards folks that have similar likes, etc. to you... but these are supposed to be workplaces... so I would hope that a manager/person in position to hire would appreciate the benefits of working with a diverse group. So far I have yet to see anyone in my places of work actively pursue achieving this sort of diversity.

I imagine that because ID has historically been a "boys' club", many of the folks in hiring/managerial positions TODAY are men. And because they like to hire what is familiar and comfortable and easy to them, the cycle just repeats itself, and female designers remain a rarity.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby cjs33139 » March 3rd, 2013, 9:29 pm


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A cool article I found tonight I wanted to share about the topic of women in ID or the lack thereof.... written by a woman. :)

http://www.good.is/posts/women-in-indus ... ladies-at/

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby cjs33139 » March 4th, 2013, 12:58 pm


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Oooh, how much I love this topic! I know yo has already found some stuff on the "Damsels of Design", but I found something else related to them. It's truly fascinating stuff! http://www.carofthecentury.com/designing_women.htm

After reading some of the snippets of these old articles from way back then, GM was so progressive with regards to how they viewed a woman's contribution to design; even if the contribution was more interiors: along the lines of color, textiles, etc... versus actual form, though it seems a few women were actually involved in hard-core ID as well.

But nonetheless, still ahead of its time.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby DesignerX » March 19th, 2013, 4:21 pm


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I'm a female director in design. It was tough to get here. There were few other women in my class in school. High school counselors were pushing me into engineering because I had good grades in math and science. I loved art. Working, I had some good breaks because I am female but I also experience harassment and discrimination. I was in departments that I felt I didn't fit in because I didn't smoke cigars and cheat on my wife. I hope that things are different now for women just starting their careers. I'm sure a lot of women have left the field after similar experiences to mine. I'm was and am just bound and determined not to let these things stop me from doing what I love. I'm in a great place now but it was a long haul to get here.

Re: Women in Industrial Design

Postby smyoung » August 2nd, 2013, 2:27 pm


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DesignerX I'm a female director in design. It was tough to get here. There were few other women in my class in school. High school counselors were pushing me into engineering because I had good grades in math and science. I loved art. Working, I had some good breaks because I am female but I also experience harassment and discrimination. I was in departments that I felt I didn't fit in because I didn't smoke cigars and cheat on my wife. I hope that things are different now for women just starting their careers. I'm sure a lot of women have left the field after similar experiences to mine. I'm was and am just bound and determined not to let these things stop me from doing what I love. I'm in a great place now but it was a long haul to get here.


DesignerX, It's really encouraging to hear your side of the story. I can only imagine what you had to go through to make career leaps forward. There are few of those "boy club" moments that you just can't seem to relate sometimes, but perhaps not as bad as you had experienced them.

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