International Women’s Day: Women in UX

Compared to other tech industries, UX and Design scores reasonably well in terms of gender equality. Research conducted by Morgan McKinley found that in the field of UX the gender balance is “significantly better” than STEM and ICT. The UX Design Institute has also specified in the past that the typical student profile is an exact 50/50 split between males and females.

The beauty of UX is that it is not your gender or background that defines your career – the practice itself encourages as wide a range of perspectives and mindsets as possible, with disciplines ranging from graphic design, to psychology and even marketing. In the run up to International Women’s Day we spoke to female UX’ers to find out what brought them to the field in the first place, and what more can be done to support women in our industry.

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

What advice would you give to women who are thinking about starting a career in UX?

Honestly – just take the plunge and do it! I think if you love design and are interested in usability and exploring that as a career then it’s really a great one to go into – and probably less male dominated than other parts of tech if that is something you are looking for. There is so much to learn and some really cool design platforms to get your teeth into – whether you want to be simply UX or cover UI in that scope (I do both), there is such a great learning curve to grow experience in and skillset. – Mel Brady, Independent UX Researcher

What drew you to working in UX in the first place?

The sheer extent at which you can help people and influence the future is amazing, that’s what really sparked my interest in UX. I also love learning something new, and being in such a fast evolving industry means exactly that – continuously learning. It’s an amazing opportunity to listen to people and dive into communities and industries you otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to reach, to learn about their way of life, and help bring their stories to the forefront.

If you are a woman thinking of getting into the field, I’d say your role is extremely important and valued. It’s important to have gender diversity in UX – women bring important perspectives to products and services, so representation in the field makes for better design. What makes good UX is diversity in ideas and experiences. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs 

Are there any female UX / designers that have inspired you?  If so why?

Not always prominent names as such – those that inspire me most are the people and clients that I work with on a daily basis, I love seeing the personal passions and interests that they bring to the table as a UX’er and how it shapes their work. – Azia Ali, Principal Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs 

I think women in the industry aren’t always as visible as they could be (or to me anyway!) and it would be great to show us off more so others can easily be inspired and see themselves in similar roles or learn about this industry. – Mel Brady, Independent UX Researcher

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

How can women support each other in the industry?

I think it’s really important to see women in senior roles live full lives by having families, time for volunteering, hobbies etc. to show others that it doesn’t have to be one or the other – that being a leader and a mother can go hand in hand. Companies need to play a role in supporting these women through maternity leave, child support, flexible working arrangements and opportunities for re-entry into the workforce.

For women who are in UX roles, making themselves visible and attainable to juniors through social media, university/company talks, conferences, panels, podcasts, even a simple hashtag helps a lot. Likewise, if you come across an inspiring woman, make an effort to bring awareness to her and her creations – it is everyone’s responsibility to shine a light on these individuals. I think that would really help give visibility and steer others towards these inspiring sources. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs

Although the field of UX is fairly equal in gender parity, what more can be done to support women?

First of all, I think it’s paramount to have diversity and representation in leadership roles. Seeing other women in the field can often bring a sense of belonging. Mentorship from these women is key to women’s success in any industry and having women who have previously been in your position who can give advice, support your journey and who want to see you succeed can do extraordinary things for your confidence and resilience. Women who support each other to succeed will improve diversity in the field. – Kimia Abbassian, Senior Design Researcher at Sutherland Labs

Although the field of UX and design is slightly ahead of its tech counterparts in terms of gender parity, these conversations show that more still can be done, as well as the importance of raising these issues in order to keep the momentum going and to help drive other industries (as well as our own) in the right direction.  Please get in touch with kimia@sutherlandlabs.com if you want to know more about any of the topics that we have discussed in the article and sign up to our newsletter if you would like to hear more from us. 

Finally – thanks to everyone who contributed to the article! 

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Sutherland Labs
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