“I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, I’ll get it myself.” — This line from James Brown’s still timely song is what I have to think of every time I read another piece on gender and race inequality that stresses minorities and problems more than it offers suggestions for improvements. I don’t want no special treatment, I want equal treatment. I don’t want a job, an award, a speaking engagement, feature, or interview request because of a quota for alleged minorities, but because someone thinks I do good work, have expertise in a field, or can contribute someting valuable, regardless of my sex.
I’m not sure it really helps to constantly complain about women not being on stage enough at conferences, or not getting a certain award. It promotes the feeling that women who do get invited are only asked because of that. It may just take a little bit more time until the fantastic recent graduates rise and get the next life-time achivement award. In the meantime, see what you can do to support them. And if anyone reading this needs tips, names, contacts of people to invite, talk to, or hire, I’m more than happy to point you to some great colleagues.
What can you do to support women, people of color, or just anyone in general:
• Educate them. Suggest and pave the way to technically oriented programs, too. While the same education is theoretically available to all, not everyone can afford to follow an expensive program (thumbs up for Germany!). Set up scholarships, offer internships and apprenticeships (and pay them).
• Offer them (flexible) jobs. Many design programs report that they have around 70% girls in their classes, but only about half of them are later working in the field, lets alone in a leading role. Offer part-time positions and flexibility in working remotely. In many countries it is not easy to find affordable child day-care (boo Germany!).
• Offer them an environment they want to work in. No bullying, no bro culture/talk, team building over booze. Be understanding about different cultural backgrounds, socialization, and different constitutions. Be patient if not everyone is exhibiting the consistent and smooth mood and behaviour that would be desirable at all times. (Trust me, you don’t want to go through this hormon stuff every four weeks.)
• Encourage them. Recognize them and show appreciation for their work and effort. Unfortunately, because of many reasons discussed elsewhere, some women tend to have less confidence when it comes to applying for a challenging position, taking on new tasks, getting into technical areas, speaking in public, or just speaking up in general. Especially if they have had bad experiences before (which I can unfortunately assure you they have). Ask their opinion, include them, point them to opportunities and openings, offer your genuine support and help.
Why not make a series of blog posts about great people in our industry that are not that visible in general? Jill Pichotta or Andreas Frohloff heading font production at foundries, tech geniuses like Inka Strotmann and Jens Kutilek, staff designers like Sandra Winter, Sara Soskolne or Robin Nicholas, or Petra Weitz or Joyce Ketterer running a type foundry.