Women in graphic design


H

Hannah.s

New Member
Hi I am currently writing a research paper about the seemingly low amount of influential women in graphic design, one statistic brought to my attention is that despite the majority of students being women only 11% become creative directors. I would like to hear the thoughts and opinions of women working within graphic design to use and possibly quote in the paper. Have you experienced sexism in studios? Does it seem to be male dominated? Would you say it’s more of a problem in society ( women being more expected to be the home maker)
I would like to stress Im open to all answers but I’m not looking for a battle of the sexes. ( men’s thoughts on this matter would also be greatly appreciated, as well as any information you may think important to the topic
 
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KPrinceArt

Member
I'd love to be a creative director-- I just feel like I'm not taken seriously by... anyone, really. I'm not sure if it's because I'm 22, a woman, or both. I know I have the skills and the drive but it feels like I can't get anyone to believe me haha. Also I will say I've noticed it does seem to be more male dominated the higher up the ladder you go. In any industry.
 
Levi

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
Personally I'd like to see where you've got your figures from.... while I was at uni the ratio of male to female was considerably biased towards the male end, my particular course had literally 3 women out of 30+ students. Now admittedly it was a slightly different field to graphic design but I didn't see much variation in any of the design fields except for fashion design where it was more female orientated.

Based on my own experience there were roughly 10% women in the course and the stats you've mentioned are consistent with those numbers when it comes to the male/female ratio for creative directors.

Design in general is cut throat, to even get in the door in this day and age requires a certain type of person and that's on top of a top notch portfolio in most cases... could it simply be that men are more suited to the necessity of this 'mind set' in their hunt to becoming creative directors.

The below isn't supposed to be offensive more a 'topic of consideration', so please don't take it the wrong way as this is not a judgement on skills/ability or what is right or wrong etc.
Most design studios these days are pretty small, with technology etc you don't need everyone like in the past and as such you'll find that these smaller studios don't have the disposable income to cover things like maternity leave (which is a legal requirement etc). As harsh as this might sound for smaller companies something like maternity leave could actually break a business financially so from a purely business perspective I can fully understand a bias towards male staff in these circumstances.

Just considering it from a business perspective and if you have a female creative director who needs maternity leave, you then have the highest paid person, who is arguably the reason people are coming to your business, and the person who is fundamentally running the day to day of the business away from the business. You then need to cover the maternity leave pay, cover the loss in staffing either by doing extra hours or hiring another staff member, you'd also likely need a 'temporary' creative director, that will require extra pay etc. So realistically you're now paying for 2+ people without any real increase in income so for a smaller business that is a LOT of expense which could quite easily put them out of business.

Now a lot of what I've said above is supposed to be illegal under current laws in the UK (I'm not fully up to speed on them though) but when you look at design in general you can often see 100+ people applying for one job and a business can basically pick and chose who they want to hire. Compare 2 identical portfolios, one by a man and one by a woman, and a business, whether it's right or wrong, will start thinking about things outside of the portfolio and how hiring that person will impact the business as a whole etc.
 
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KPrinceArt

Member
Levi, this is without a doubt why we NEED required paid Paternity leave as well as Maternity leave, I like the Canadian model personally. It's paid for by taxes and both parents can take off. No burden on small businesses as you mentioned. We can say it's illegal to discriminate all we want but companies just do whatever they want anyway.

Here in the US you're not even required to give maternity OR paternity leave, paid or unpaid. Most places give you 6 weeks unpaid leave though. However, there are some companies that give you 2 weeks of FMLA and if you don't show up after that you're fired. And if you don't know... 2 weeks is not enough time to even physically recover from childbirth so getting pregnant is essentially a guaranteed way of getting fired in some companies. Even though pregnancy is a "protected status". Some even find excuses to fire you when they find out you're pregnant.

Although it seems regardless of how a country handles its paternity/maternity leave, there is sex discrimination, so it's not JUST because of maternity leave, although I do agree that plays a role.
 
AysheaS

AysheaS

New Member
When I first did my HND there was more women than there would normally be on the course, I completed that in 2003. It was commented on by the lecturers because normally most years there was very few women, in some years no women at all. When I topped up my degree in 2017/2018 there was only a small number of women. There were no female lecturers (there was 4 in total). When I did my HND there was no female lecturers, however there was 2 on the Btec.

I would be surprised if the majority of pupils on Graphic Design courses are women.

I can't comment on the industry itself as I could never get my first job never mind any higher! Other than to say when ever I had interviews it was mainly a male boss/creative director. We had an end of degree show and not one of the businesses that attended had a female with them. All the creative directors/business owners were male.

Even if the majority of students are female BTW that does not mean they work in a design studio, they may never have got a job at entry level so of course they can't progress to creative director. There may statistics somewhere on how many students are female and what percentage work in the design field versus males. If there is a difference in the number of females/males who gets their first foot on the ladder this may be part of the reason fewer women are creative directors.
 
scotty

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
This is an interesting question.

I've never really been exposed to any kind of sexism in my career although the only place I've worked at that employed multiple designers actually admitted at my interview that they preferred to employ female Designers who very much the majority in the studio.

This was at a company that made greetings cards and sentiment based gifts so I'm not sure if that was something to do with it as the main buyers of the products were women and aimed at women.

As I recall, the guy who interviewed me said the reason was that he didn't want the female employees to get upset by the company of male colleagues.
I remember this because I was thinking "WTF?" at the time.

On another note, I was talking to a female friend of mine very recently who told me that when she was at school she originally wanted to become a Graphic Designer but at her career advisor told her it was a mans job.
I think I'd have punched the advisor.
 
K

KPrinceArt

Member
Hmm, when I was in school it was about 50/50 or with a small margin of female majority. I went to a tech school first, and that was definitely female majority, and then a bunch of guys dropped out. My graduating class started with a class of 25 students and the people that graduated were 5 women and 1 man. The week I went to university, it was a split 50/50. I had 2 female professors and 1 male professor, and the advisor was a guy, but the class was pretty much 50/50. One of my lady professors was the director of the department though.

The art department I work in is 3 women, 1 man. However, the place I work at is WAY under pay compared to the average even in this area, so you could say it's a female majority here because it's a lower paying job.This is my first full time Graphic Design job, and I graduated 4 years ago. I'm trying to get out and get better work. I do have an interview on Tuesday! Wish me luck.
 
scotty

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
Levi, this is without a doubt why we NEED required paid Paternity leave as well as Maternity leave, I like the Canadian model personally. It's paid for by taxes and both parents can take off. No burden on small businesses as you mentioned. We can say it's illegal to discriminate all we want but companies just do whatever they want anyway.

Here in the US you're not even required to give maternity OR paternity leave, paid or unpaid. Most places give you 6 weeks unpaid leave though. However, there are some companies that give you 2 weeks of FMLA and if you don't show up after that you're fired. And if you don't know... 2 weeks is not enough time to even physically recover from childbirth so getting pregnant is essentially a guaranteed way of getting fired in some companies. Even though pregnancy is a "protected status". Some even find excuses to fire you when they find out you're pregnant.

Although it seems regardless of how a country handles its paternity/maternity leave, there is sex discrimination, so it's not JUST because of maternity leave, although I do agree that plays a role.
I find that totally shocking being from the UK.

Here (I think) a woman can take up to a year off but I believe the pay is reduced the longer you take but I'm no expert.
I do think that the maternity leave thing must have a bearing on career progression.

This topic got me thinking before I replied and I asked my wife about it.
She works as a Teacher in a small primary school where all but one of the staff are female but she was originally a Designer.

She said that last year more than half the staff in the school were off on maternity leave at the same time and this was a total nightmare for the Head to sort out.
Often these staff would not return to work after their leave or, ask for part time or flexible working hours on their return.
Again, something else that must cause the Headteacher a headache especially after sourcing temporary staff in their absence.

I asked her if she thought that some of the women might actually plan having a family around them starting the job and their eligibility to maternity pay/leave starting and she told me "Yes. Many of them have openly admitted to it".

I was like :oops:
 
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KPrinceArt

Member
I mean it makes sense, you have to have some kind of support financially to be able to have a child. Would you have a child before you're financially ready to relieve some kind of burden on your employer? Literally the #1 reason people decide not to have children is because of the financial burden. So it makes sense to wait until you have a safety net and some stability to make that leap.

I can understand it from an employers perspective on that but really, we can't just have an entire generation of people just NOT having kids. Ideally there would be a system that makes financial stability a lot easier to obtain, the stagnating wages (especially here in the US, I don't know about the situations in other countries though) is absolutely killing people's ability to settle down and have a family. Single income homes are practically unheard of anymore. Something like either hiking up the federal minimum wage to something a family of 4 can live on, or a base wage. I know we were talking about gender inequality and I've totally derailed it to income inequality, but really they go hand in hand.
 
AysheaS

AysheaS

New Member
Thinking about the wider employment situation for women for your paper is a good idea. Women are more likely to be underemployed than men. Many women request return part-time hours or flexible working after having children, sometimes this will be choice but childcare costs play a big role. Although a mother can request flexible or part-time work (anyone can request BTW not just mothers) legally a business does not have to offer this if this doesn't suit the businesses needs. Women in this position either face having to return to work full-time (which some would be paying out more in childcare than they would be earning) or finding another part-time job. Many part-time jobs are low paid, low skilled jobs. So many women move to jobs which do not utilise their skills but have the sort of hours they need.

Some mothers may drop out of Graphic Design because they can't get part-time hours. Some may get the hours they want but then can't progress, positions which have more responsibility tend to be full time. How many Creative Director jobs are part-time? I would guess not very many.

Also, and this isn't talked about as much is elder care. Women take on this role more than men. How many women put their career on hold to have a family, return to work/increase their hours to full-time only to then take more time off again/reduce hours later on to look after elderly relatives?
 
Levi

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
She said that last year more than half the staff in the school were off on maternity leave at the same time and this was a total nightmare for the Head to sort out.
Often these staff would not return to work after their leave or, ask for part time or flexible working hours on their return.
Again, something else that must cause the Headteacher a headache especially after sourcing temporary staff in their absence.

I asked her if she thought that some of the women might actually plan having a family around them starting the job and their eligibility to maternity pay/leave starting and she told me "Yes. Many of them have openly admitted to it".

I was like :oops:
Hence why I said my bit above, while it might not be 'legal' to be baised, when situations like the above can arise it can give a very valid reason for just hiring men...
I do like that Canadian model... it would probably be 'difficult' for freelancers to get anything if it was brought into the UK, mind you that's just normal for most things the government do...

As I recall, the guy who interviewed me said the reason was that he didn't want the female employees to get upset by the company of male colleagues.
I remember this because I was thinking "WTF?" at the time.
.
Knew I'd forgotten something... working dynamics with women and men together.

I went to a bank recently to transfer my isa account due to them having better rates and I was asked if I'd mind having an 'examiner and trainee' come in as well, basically for training and to check if everything was being done correctly. It made no difference to me but one thing that was said, more in jest than in seriousness, was if I was ok being in a closed room with 3 women, me being the only man.

Personally it doesn't bother me in the slightest but I can understand why some might be concerned with that scenario, especially with how the 'sex card' can be played these days (not belittling the real victims but there are plenty of fake claims these days, which can be hugely destructive to the accused even if they've done nothing wrong).

Although from what I've seen it does seem that an 'all women' staff could potentially have more issues... just look out the housewives of xyz shows, they're 'best friends' but they always seem to be trying to kill each other lol...
 
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K

KPrinceArt

Member
Although from what I've seen it does seem that an 'all women' staff could potentially have more issues... just look out the housewives of xyz shows, they're 'best friends' but they always seem to be trying to kill each other lol...
So when I worked at Walmart there was definitely some drama between all the apparel ladies, but we still worked well together, kept our mouths shut and didn't start fights. The backroom on the other hand, an all man team, were constantly being pulled into the office for being mean to each other, getting in fights, straight up bullying, or harassing women from other departments. At the print shop I worked at it was a team of all girls and one old man who was the driver. We all got along great. There were some tensions sometimes but we still worked well together even if we were pissed at each other. The old man driver was great by the way; he was a sweet and genuine old man and was very respectful to us, including the store manager who was a woman in her late 20's.

I think personally it depends on the industry. Obviously at Walmart we all came from very different walks of life, and we all had very different ideas and interests. The backroom was a mix of once successful people who fell on hard times, and 18 year old high school dropouts.

While at the print shop I worked at we all had one thing in common: We all wanted to be graphic designers but we weren't quite there yet, I still hang out with my coworkers from the print shop outside of work. I think that the idea that women start more drama in the workplace is a harmful stereotype.

As far as housewives of XYZ... these are spoiled women who don't work never learned conflict resolution and not any kind of accurate measurement of what women in the workplace might be like :p
 
scotty

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
There are shitty people of both sexes and in lots of different professions and work places although some seem to be breeding grounds for them.

My niece works in Fashion Graphic Design as she said she had to work under "some real evil bitches" but the industry is known for it.

A bit off topic but I once had an interview at a large sports/clothing company called Sports Direct doing Fashion Graphic Design.
Was that an experience that was. :eek:
Even today it sends shivers up my spine.

I was in an interview situation with two female management staff one who was lovely and the other...Well....Brrrrr!
Think of the headteacher from the film Matilda but skinnier.
It was like good cop/bad cop.
The bad cop was immediately on the offensive with me, almost like she wanted an argument or something.
She asked me if I used Mac or PC and I told her Mac.
She leaned over the desk and said "Nobody uses Mac's here. Apart from those two guys over there and they won't have them much longer".
The two guys seemed aware of her attention and hid behind their screens. They were terrified of her.

EDIT. There was LOTS more that happened like when she talked about sickness leave.
"We have sickness pay but nobody takes time off sick. If you are ill then you may leave to go to hospital if you must return right after"
This is her real words that still ring in my ears. :D

I knew I didn't want to work there so I kind of closed the interview down and left.
As I exited the building through the airport style security I said bye to the security lady and put on my baseball cap.
She only went to lunge at me thinking I'd stolen the cap. :rolleyes:

I drove home as fast as I could.
 
K

KPrinceArt

Member
Oh man! Boy do I have some scary interview stories haha. Here's one: I interviewed at a fairly new local print shop. They were looking to hire someone immediately and wanted someone who would stay with the company long-term. There were a lot of red flags but I was working at Walmart at the time. The pay was crap ($12 USD/hr, I was making only .50 less at Walmart at the time) and they weren't offering any benefits, no vacation, no sick leave, no health insurance (in the US that isn't required if you're a small enough business) and they wanted me to be available at their beckon call (asking me to drop out of school), as well as be ok with working 20 hrs one week, and then overtime when it's busy. I have no idea what adult can not have health insurance or paid time off, and make a wage like that. I really don't know who they were expecting to hire but that wasn't even the worst of it.

This guy was just so full of himself, he just wouldn't shut up about himself. Flashed his gun at me and told me if I had a problem with guns then I won't fit in (I should have gotten up and left right then but I was trying to be polite). He kept talking about his gun, then asked me a few questions and then interrupted me mid-sentence to talk about himself or his gun some more. Then at the end he complained that I was "too quiet". He wouldn't let me even get a word in of course I was quiet!! He was the only one talking!! Ugh!!
 
Levi

Levi

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Staff member
She asked me if I used Mac or PC and I told her Mac.
I would have been so biting my tongue on that question lol
A Mac IS a pc, it's just using os-x instead of windows....
 
scotty

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
Oh man! Boy do I have some scary interview stories haha. Here's one: I interviewed at a fairly new local print shop. They were looking to hire someone immediately and wanted someone who would stay with the company long-term. There were a lot of red flags but I was working at Walmart at the time. The pay was crap ($12 USD/hr, I was making only .50 less at Walmart at the time) and they weren't offering any benefits, no vacation, no sick leave, no health insurance (in the US that isn't required if you're a small enough business) and they wanted me to be available at their beckon call (asking me to drop out of school), as well as be ok with working 20 hrs one week, and then overtime when it's busy. I have no idea what adult can not have health insurance or paid time off, and make a wage like that. I really don't know who they were expecting to hire but that wasn't even the worst of it.

This guy was just so full of himself, he just wouldn't shut up about himself. Flashed his gun at me and told me if I had a problem with guns then I won't fit in (I should have gotten up and left right then but I was trying to be polite). He kept talking about his gun, then asked me a few questions and then interrupted me mid-sentence to talk about himself or his gun some more. Then at the end he complained that I was "too quiet". He wouldn't let me even get a word in of course I was quiet!! He was the only one talking!! Ugh!!
Yep. There are some total knobs in the world but it's just a pity that a lot of them get to be Managers or business owners.
I've met quite a few so I have a lot of bored bridges behind me to prove it.

Flashing and talking about his gun is on a whole different level though and not just intimidating but plain weird and worrying.
I'm sure Freud would have had something to say about that.
 
scotty

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
I would have been so biting my tongue on that question lol
A Mac IS a pc, it's just using os-x instead of windows....
I was just kind of like "whatever" but it was sheer aggression of the Manager that was the thing.
I think I'd have guessed how you'd have reacted Levi. ;)

Shortly after that there was a documentary on TV about the place and how badly they treat there staff.
The staff were even timed on their toilet break and named and shamed over the PA if they took too long.
 
N

Nicola

New Member
Hello a female graphic designer here, i've been working in the industry for 25 years. I'm going to be brutally honest here, I've met very few female managers that i've liked or I've thought did the job well. There have been some exceptions but not many. I've found that working with a lot of government or corporate clients they have to fill quotas and just hire a female over a male to fulfil them. Which means you can sometimes get some crazy bitch, jealous or just stupid steering your work. For example: I worked in-house for a large financial firm many years ago with a female manager that loved telling the designers that we were just 'service industry' employers, like we worked at McDonalds or something. There was also a design agency where the female owner tipped the contents of rubbish bin on my desk because I didn't recycle properly. I'm currently doing some work for a female communications manager at a local council who's a complete nut job who thinks I'm going to give my artwork files to other designers if they're cheaper than me. Last but not least female marketing managers have got a reputation for being particularly bitchy and hard to work with, they never like anything you do, probably because they want to be designers and are jealous (jealous of what?! working with nutters like you). I'm sorry to say this being a female myself, but my past experience with female management has - at the very least - not been great.
 
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KPrinceArt

Member
I feel like a majority of managers are not good though. Like, if 1/10 managers are really good, and you meet 40 male managers and 10 female managers, you're much more likely to meet more good male managers.
 
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