Designers striking a balance for gender equality

Kim MacKenzie-Doyle, President Emeritus of the Irish Designers in Ireland (IDI).

Aileen Lee previews a March 8 event that aims to promote gender equality in the world of design.

AS PART of its celebrations last year for International Women’s Day, the Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) launched its Why Design website, to showcase practising female designers from all design disciplines, as a way to promote and encourage greater female participation in the sector.

The impetus to create this website came from startling statistics that show that the Irish design sector is 25% female to 75% male. Not only that, but men make up 89% of the leadership roles in the Irish creative sector.

Spearheaded by Kim Mackenzie-Doyle, president emeritus of the IDI, the website was the first initiative of its kind for creative industries in Ireland, with its focus on inspiring female second-level students to take the leap into creative industries and to increase female participation in the Irish design workforce.

Mackenzie-Doyle, who is also head of marketing & product in Voxgig and a recent winner of the Creative Leader prize at the Irish Women’s Awards, says the feedback this past year on the website has been very encouraging. She says: “We have had really positive feedback so far, which has been very reassuring as we are developing something that is very much needed. We have had comments from parents letting us know how great a resource it’s been to understand the range of careers and educational opportunities across the country.

“What’s been most rewarding is the feedback from second-level students, the idea of: ‘Yeah, I could do that too’ that is inspiring confidence in them to know that they could. Women in the industry have also given huge praise for the platform and I know it has encouraged female creatives who perhaps want to go to the next level to take those steps towards achieving their goals.”

Jewellery designer Chupi Sweetman who features in the Why Design initiative.

As part of the IDI’s celebrations for International Women’s Day this year, it will host a panel discussion, under the Why Design umbrella, around gender balance in the creative industries, on Friday, March 8, from 6-9pm, at 22 Anne Street South, Dublin 2 (tickets available on Eventbrite). Two internationally acclaimed designers will speak at the event, Natasha Jen, Partner at Pentagram New York, the world’s largest independent design consultancy, and Thierry Brunfaut, co-founder of Base Design, which has offices in Brussels, New York and Geneva.

Mackenzie-Doyle says this event is aimed at men and women currently working in the design sector in Ireland, to impress upon them the benefits of balanced teams. She says: “In inviting Natasha and Thierry, we want to make sure it’s a balanced conversation and that we talk about culture and business facts. The impact of gender balance is financially proven. We need to get the female and male perspective on this. Men are in 89% of the senior roles in Ireland so it’s essential we don’t exclude them in this conversation or nothing will change.

Roisin Lafferty, who has previously featured in Irish Examiner Interiors Design/life series, is one of the creatives involved in the Why Design website.

“In Ireland, the IDI, through Why Design, aims to inspire and challenge the Irish creative community to make a positive change. We are keeping diversity high on the agenda. We have exciting plans throughout the year and are collaborating with like-minded organisations to make a tangible difference.”

- More details at www.idi-design.ie and www.whydesign.ie

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