Where’s all the ladies at? (especially the brown ones?)

There are great programs and resources emerging to promote and encourage women in design such as the Ladies, Wine & Design set up by Jessica Walsh which now spans over 170 cities. Which led me onto thinking about the representation of people of colour in design. I came across Timothy Goodman and Amélie Lamont’s People of Craft website a few months ago now, to say I got excited is an understatement. It’s something I’ve not seen before, the celebration of people of colour in my own field of work. Everything seems to link back to this topic I’ve been wanting to work on for some time now, that is essentially everything brown, hence the beginning of the brown-blog.

I recently read only 11% of design business leaders are women. It’s a strange occurrence when I consider that my university course was roughly evenly split. So where are all the ladies at? Not only are females underrepresented in design, so too are people of colour. In 2016 BAME employees made up 11% of the people working in creative industries. I’ve yet to find out what proportion of that are women but I doubt it’s a promising figure. In four years of design education and three years in industry I have only encountered a handful of people of colour in my field and virtually none in the working environment since.

It’s hard to become something you can’t already see. Undeniably our backgrounds shape our experiences and opportunities. Being able to understand that becomes an important part of my own practice and would hopefully be beneficial to other people of colour in design. My biggest frustration currently is opening up this conversation without being mistaken for ‘complaining’. To support people of colour is more than ticking the token brown person box. It’s opening up design to a diverse pool of talent who could bring valuable experiences to the table.

I want to create a positive network of BAME designers, however small in number to support each other, collaborate and discuss the barriers facing people of colour getting into design and more importantly what will keep us here. If you’re a designer and a person of colour or know someone who’d be interested, get in touch! Especially if you’re UK based, I’d love to hear from you.

Women are studying design – so where are all the female creative directors? by Natalie Maher
Lack of diversity within UK’s creative industries revealed by Ali Morris

Illustration & Words: Radhika Mary