Equality in our industry

“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.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Nameless
    Posted 25. July 2015 at 11:18 | Permalink

    “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.

    This comment leads me to conclude you do not believe in ‘affirmative action‘ (the link is worth reading, and I recommend reading this link that busts some myths about it – they are very American-centric but I think the arguments should still make sense).

    I understand the frustration about criticism without solutions but overcoming oppression thats goes back at least centuries of white-supremacy, imperialism and even longer for patriarchy, is unlikely going to be summarisable in a blog post or article. I believe criticism and showing people that oppression exists is still necessary.

    It seems you think that the playing field is ‘sort of level’, and that one only needs grit and hard work to overcome the obstacles in place – that you believe you should be treated equally, not preferrentially for your gender.

    But this isn’t a world that treats people equally at all: treating one person who who has a worse start in life with fewer opportunities; who faces biases and prejedices against them; and institutional oppression, is not the same as another who does have privileges and does not face the same difficulty. Affirmative action seeks to help fight and make it equal in small ways. ‘Equal’ treatment is not equal in a world where certain groups enjoy automatic privileges over other.

  2. Má ideia
    Posted 14. December 2016 at 18:53 | Permalink

    Hi! Came here to pick brains (by the way, thanks for sharing). I’ve spent my last semester in Germany (HdM) and was surprised with more gender prejudice than I expected.

    To cut a long story short: prejudice, previous assumptions. That’s why blind tests and auditions make a difference.

    I’m in print media, but very hybrid. Very interested in technology, yet proficient in aesthetics.

    In technical issues, I often only gain voice in a group when I actually solve the problem by myself while they talk. I get disregarded in brainstorming. People remember I “get it” in those issues only when no man is around.

    Sometimes I present the solution and say it’s just an suggestion (It’s done, duh…so, next?) just to play down the tension of “I told you guys but you didn’t listen”. Makes me feel quite lonely.

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