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10 Ways to Make Women More Welcome in Your Design Space

Take a look around. How many women work in your creative space? (If you are a freelancer, think about how many women are part of your referral network.) What does that ratio look like? The design industry is not known for equal numbers in the workplace.

A study late last year by Design Museum showed that only 1 in 5 designers in the UK are women. Another study by AIGA showed that women were just 36 percent of the “design leaders” to speak at the world’s biggest design conferences. (It was even tough to find stock images to represent women as designers for this article.)

These trends just aren’t acceptable. And change starts with you.

If you want to see more ideas, more creative concepts, and more diversity of design, everyone needs to be welcome in the same design space. It can be tough to be the only woman in the room (and it happens a lot).

Here are some ways you can make women more welcome in your design space.

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1. Provide Valuable Mentoring

designer diversity

What are you doing to empower employees in your workspace?

Provide valuable mentoring connections for women. Even look outside of the design team or your business if there aren’t enough women to connect in one location.

Use professional networks, other businesses, and even great clients to help provide that relationship for employees. Finding a strong mentor (and pairing more senior employees with mentees) can help women grow, find their niche in the company and set the stage for long-term workplace satisfaction and growth.

2. Be Aware of Silent Cues

Be aware of your surroundings in meetings. Make sure that women aren’t sitting in the back or not speaking up. These can be cues that your workplace isn’t as friendly as you think.

Make a point to divide speaking roles in projects and make sure your design teams have both men and women present in team meetings and with clients.

Women don’t just need to be present; they need to be involved. This is something both men and women can do to ensure that the workplace is as inclusive as possible.

3. Eliminate the Gender Pay Gap at You Company

You’ve probably heard of the gender pay gap.

When everything else is equal – same job and qualifications, a report by shows that women make only 90 cents for every dollar men earn. (That gap widens significantly across all industries.)

If you are in a position to influence wages at your firm, make sure that all employees doing the same job with the same qualifications make the same salary. It’s just that simple.

4. Celebrate Women in Design

Share their work, know their names, and celebrate all types of designers in your workplace. It’s not just about women’s month; thinking about design equality should happen all the time.

Creative Bloq has a nice list of 12 trail-blazing women in design with bios if you need a primer.

5. Don’t Stick Women on “Pink” Projects

designer diversity

The worst thing that happens in design is that women get stuck with “pink” projects. Whether these are marquee clients or not, just because I am female does not mean I want to design a baby website; I’m totally cool with the video game design.

This is a common trap. Don’t get stuck in it.

Try to put the best people on the best projects for their skillsets. And if you don’t know what people might want to work on … ask them!

6. Focus on Flexibility

women in design

It’s not just women who want flexibility in the workplace, but it can sure help.

Allowing time for employees to take care of personal business and not prying when it comes to time off is a major bonus. (Do you really want to tell the boss that you are going in to get an IUD replaced? Probably not.)

Life isn’t rigid and most jobs aren’t only from 9-to-5. Be open to flexibility to keep employees happy and even encourage productivity.

7. Feature Strong Women in Design Projects

Look back that the last few projects you completed. How many strong women were featured in the photography and videos? What’s the voice of the narrative?

Women will want to work in places that support strong women in projects. It’s not just about seeing each other in the workplace; it’s also about doing work that fits that same model.

If all of your projects feature women in submissive roles, that will impact your employee culture over time. Take a look at what you are working on and try to take projects that reflect your team and who you want to be.

8. Follow and Talk About Women Who Design

women designers

Women Who Design is a Twitter directory of great designers. Follow them. Learn from them. Use their examples in your design life.

And don’t be afraid to say where you got an idea.

This is an amazing list – kudos to Jules Forrest for the project – and inspiration to use it in the workplace. Her tips for using the list:

  • To check the ratio of people you follow on Twitter and “diversify the voices in your feed.”
  • Find job candidates.
  • Find conference speakers.
  • Find guests for podcasts or blogs.

9. Keep Clients in Check

Don’t let clients harass female employees.

If you see it happening, speak up. Just because they are paying, does not mean they can treat your team with disrespect. Set ground rules for the interactions and make sure that everyone sticks to them.

Pay attention to all interactions. Even if it doesn’t get into the territory of harassment, how many times have you hear a client call a co-worker “honey” or “sweetheart?” Sadly, it happens more than you might think and trust me, it does not feel good, empowering or make me want to work for that client.

10. Invite Women to Apply

Invite talented women in design to apply for positions at your company, come to your professional development meetings and share their insights at conferences or events.

Design can feel like a man’s world sometimes and as long as there’s not equal representation, projects won’t be as inclusive as they should be. All the creativity that could be there might not. We’ll fall short of authentically connecting through design with groups that are under-represented.

All you have to do to make the workplace a little more inclusive is ask!


Finally, look around your office and think about the space as a whole. Does it feel inviting and inclusive? Do work stations give each employee the ability to be creative and express themselves?

The path to creating a design space that women want to work in is to establish a culture that’s creative, open and inviting. Your team should feel like they can work together and have open conversations on the path to success. The reality is all of the things that will make your workplace more female-friendly will actually just make it a better place to work.