Yesterday we heard from Kim Mackenzie-Doyle about her plans to tackle gender inequality through her IDI Presidency. Next we hear from someone at the other end of the scale, recent NCAD Visual Communication graduate Tadhg Murray. In his final year of design education, Tadhg based his work around the unbalanced gender ratio in the graphic design industry, while at the same time exploring how design can highlight and encourage discussion of social issues. Here are his views:
How do we redress the gender imbalance in design?
Early in my final year of education, I started to notice a gender imbalance in the graphic design community. I started noticing subtle things that pointed towards an imbalanced workforce. I saw that the majority of my classmates were female and that the majority of the tutors were male. I noticed that all of the ‘great’ graphic designers we learned about were all male. I noticed that almost all of the guest tutors that were invited in to speak to us were, you guessed it, male. This sparked my interest and I decided that it warranted more thought. I started discussing the issue with both students and professional designers. These conversations helped me to realise that male designers both at student and professional levels were, for the most part, completely unaware of the issue. This is because the issue of gender disparity in the industry is not discussed at an education level. In every aspect of life, the dominant group (i.e. males) do not want their dominance to be questioned. Conversations about the gender disparity need to happen. Students need to be made aware of the issue.
While researching, I learned that on average, 70% of graphic design students are female and only 30% are male. At at professional level however, 70% of working graphic designers are male and 30% are female. The ratio flips. I started to ask myself what was happening after education that inhibits the female designers from proceeding to the design workforce. The answer that kept coming up was pregnancy and parenthood. I’ve learned that pregnancy and parenthood are not to blame for the lack of female designers; for me this is not the sole reason. Graphic design courses need to discuss the disparity in the industry so that the students are knowledgable about the issue - only then will we start to see a difference.
Programmes such are Ladies, Wine & Design are celebrating the importance of females in the industry, however, they only involve female designers. While celebrating female designers is great and very important, it is males that are the ones who need to be educated about the issue. The industry would benefit greatly if events presenting women were aimed at men.
If someone asked me how to redress the gender imbalance in the graphic design community I would say for everyone to MAKE NOISE. Talk about it to male designers and highlight the imbalance. This discussion should, in my opinion, begin during education. Get the ball rolling and get people thinking about it - even if it annoys some of them to do so. Then, and only then, will we start to see change and hopefully, a more gender balanced industry.