By Joanna Rowlands

The latest DBA Annual Survey is a sober read for any female design students starting out on their career in the creative industries.

The latest DBA Annual Survey is a sober read for any female design students starting out on their career in the creative industries. Apparently, the chances of a woman making it to Executive Creative Director level is only slightly more likely than me having a top ten hit, which is astonishing on so many levels.

According to the DBA things start off ok for women, with 5% more women than men in junior designer roles. At designer level (with 3-8 years experience) men and women are even stevens, but it’s when we get to Senior Designer level that the gap between the two starts to appear. The gap grows into a gulf at Creative Director level and continues to widen until Executive Creative Director level where the split is polarised at 14% women to 86% men.

Here at Uniform, women are represented in each specialist team in the Design and Innovation part of the business but the ratios reflect the DBA findings with only 37% women in creative roles. In the main, females make up the junior and mid-weight creative roles, with the notable exceptions of our London-based Creative Director and our Head of Digital - both women. While there are many other female employees at Uniform, the majority are in client facing or operations support roles.

We know the gender balance in the company, and the wider industry, is a problem so we need to begin to understand the issues in order to address them. So, I hijacked a few of my female colleagues to find out what they thought were the main challenges for women staying in creative positions.

The draw of account management jobs seems to be a factor in people moving into other roles within an agency setting. A couple of people I talked to said that they’d been made good offers to switch to support roles (a company Mini was part of one package!) and that the new roles suited their practical skills and they enjoyed developing a relationship with the client. Could women in design firms (and further afield) be perceived as being good at developing relationships and that’s why they are encouraged to move into account management roles?

The career path for young creatives doesn’t appear to be straightforward and female creatives can’t envisage themselves in a Creative Director role. According to the people I spoke to it wasn’t made obvious to them that there was a career trajectory to aim for, and at least two people I spoke to said they knew they weren’t good enough to get to that senior role or didn’t deserve it. Is this lack of confidence holding women back from senior roles? Or is it a vicious circle because there aren’t enough women in senior positions providing role models for the younger generation?

The long hours and desk-based nature of a designer were also cited regularly as a reason why women either left the profession or might leave. Two people currently in creative roles said they couldn’t carry out their current role if they had families.

One former designer I spoke to described being given the ‘girly’ briefs in a previous job (pre-Uniform), so she put together moodboards and created logos while her male counterparts were given grittier and more technical architectural jobs. This suggests that there could be preconceived ideas of which briefs are best suited to males and females, rather than allowing for a broader creative flow to get to the most exciting idea that fits the brief. Could this provide men with more opportunities to prove themselves or showcase their skills?

This is a snapshot of the gender inequalities the creative industries are facing. Tomorrow we’re hosting the launch of the North West branch of Kerning the Gap, a group encouraging more women into leadership roles in the design industry.

Join us for the debate on this Thursday at 5.45pm, and while you’re here have a poke around the new Bold Street Studios.


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