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There’s no use hiding, transparency will push equality globally

In this video series about the future of women in design, The Drum spoke to female leaders, and judges of The Drum Awards for Design, about their experiences within the industry, and what actionable changes are possible today.

The global conversation around gender equality has evolved in recent years, from the Me Too movement to widespread recognition of how few women hold positions of power and influence in business. For the design industry in particular, there is still a long way to go. Considering gender equality from a global perspective, there are a lot of obstacles in the way of progress. How can the design sector move things forward?

Moderated by John Mathers, chairman of the British Design Fund, The Drum staged a roundtable discussion on the matter with Sue Daun, executive creative director, Interbrand; Chloe Templeman, creative director, Design Bridge; Natasha Chetiyawardana, creative partner and founder of Bow&Arrow and Rosanna Vitiello, co-founder of The Place Bureau.

At Interbrand, Daun says she can count how many female creative leadership elements the agency has. While they have many managing directors across Europe, she explains that as soon as you move outside Europe, into Asia, India, Australia and the Middle East, female leadership drops sharply.

“The leadership is generally male, bar one exclusion in our business, with one creative director in India who is female. We need to do some work here. One area that has seen a significant rise in women leaders, within Europe, is tech. However, in design and advertising, it’s a much slower growth in some of those other regions outside of Europe.

“I’m sitting here quite shocked thinking, ’Oh my God, is that what we’ve got in our business?’ While Europe has definitely increased in its growth, it has not done so at the speed we want to see.”

Regarding representation, Templeman says that on a global stage ‘seeing is believing’. The UK is in a better position in terms of gender equality compared to some other countries, she noes, and the industry should continue its efforts in getting more female voices out there on the global stage, on panels, talks and roundtables.

“Get women together and reach them in a more global level. We need to see the women in senior roles it to believe it. It’s not something we’ll solve overnight but allowing it to trickle down will improve people’s perceptions.”

Chetiyawardana suggests that because more brands increasingly operate globally, and transparency is key to consumers, brands are asking more from their agencies. Advertising partners need to step up, she says.

“We’re still hearing about women that ’talk’ too much in meetings in other countries and things like that, but we know about it and we can hold people accountable. Then people in other countries that look at places that have it better, have more equality can make those demands as well. The transparency helps to hold people to account.”

The Drum Awards for Design are closed for entry but extensions are available now.