Why We Need More Women in UX Design

Women are making meaningful headway in the field of UX/UI design. Read on to learn more about the challenges women are overcoming and the opportunities that are helping close the gender gap.

women in ux/ui design

Women make up 53.5% of the design workforce, according to research from the AIGA and Google, making it one of the few technical professions within the tech industry where women are well represented. Despite women holding more than half the roles in design, though, there is a dearth of women designers in leadership; the same research found that only 11% of leadership positions are held by women.

Although many women in UX/UI design are qualified to rise through the ranks, they continue to face workplace challenges that can stifle their growth, such as lack of mentorship, a shortage of female designer role models in the field, gender bias in the workplace, and unequal growth opportunities compared to men.

Tech companies have in recent years recognized the cost of both employee attrition and a lack of diversity at the leadership level, and have taken steps to make their workplaces more inclusive, their hiring and promotion processes more transparent, and to ensure that the extraordinary achievements of employees of all backgrounds are highlighted to improve recruiting and retention. Innovators in the design world have also taken matters into their own hands, creating opportunities and support networks for women in UX/UI design and clearing some of the hurdles that stand in their way.

How Can We Get More Women in UX/UI Design Careers?

Research has identified several key issues that continue to hold women back from advancing their UX design careers: lack of women role models, lack of mentorship opportunities, and a pay gap that lacks transparency. Industry leaders and other remarkable women in the field of design are addressing these issues through the following ways:

  1. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Studies have shown that women role models can empower and inspire women to stay in the workforce and pursue more advanced roles. In one particular study, researchers found that female students were more likely to major in STEM if they were assigned a woman professor, and that junior-level employees were more likely to stay with an organization if they had women supervisors. Companies are beginning to understand the importance of not only having women in UX/UI design roles but also having women at all levels of an organization so that their peers can see both a path for advancement and a place at the top for them.
  2. More mentorship—from women and men. When people think of mentorship for women in UX/UI design, they often default to thinking that the task should fall on women to mentor other women. But this leads to the few women in UX leadership shouldering most of the work. Instead, research has found that male mentors are just as important in offering guidance, support, and insight into the profession. Mentors of all stripes also play a valuable role in advocating for women, elevating the status of female designers, carving out space for newcomers to be heard, and influencing an organization’s culture so that it’s more welcoming and inclusive.
  3. Pay transparency. The gender pay gap in tech can range from 5-10%, according to Hired, and the frustration of not knowing where they stand or how much they should be asking for is one of the reasons women in UX design feel disempowered. More transparent conversations about salaries can help break down these barriers of disempowerment, according to Hired’s report, which also found that 68% of women and 63% of men surveyed thought that pay transparency would increase their interest in working for a company.

What Opportunities Are Available for Women in UX/UI Design?

Every facet of UX/UI design, whether it’s UX management, product design, UX research, UX analyst, UX writing, or information architecture, benefits from diversity at all levels. Recognizing some of the barriers to entry that can deter women from careers in the profession or discourage them from climbing the ranks, UX design leaders have launched conferences and initiatives to support women from the time they’re in school through to when they’re in the workforce.

Some of the more notable conferences, organizations, and networking opportunities include:

  1. Ladies That UX
  2. Women In UX Conference
  3. Women In User Experience Facebook Group
  4. InVision Design Leadership Forum
  5. Women Talk Design
  6. Innovation Women
  7. Women Who Design
  8. Black Girls Code

Women to UX Design: Scholarship Grants for Women

Scholarships and Grants for Women in UX/UI Design

A growing number of organizations have thrown their support behind helping the UX/UI design industry achieve proportional representation, namely through offering scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Design scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing design or related fields, and there are also paid internship programs that aim to give students from historically underrepresented groups hands-on industry experience.

On the online learning/bootcamp front, Springboard offers scholarships of up to $750 for women who choose to pursue any of its programs, including the UX/UI Design Career Track.

Springboard also offers a number of women-in-tech scholarships.

How Does Springboard Support Women Entering UX/UI Design?

Students who have completed Springboard’s UX/UI Design Career Track have gone on to work as design professionals at companies like Bustle, Google, Facebook, HireAHelper, and CloudLock. Many graduates of the program credit Springboard’s three-pronged approach to their success:

  1. Ensuring students learn foundational UX/UI design and web design skills
  2. Giving every student hands-on experience with real-world projects
  3. Comprehensive mentorship.

“Learning online can be hard for me when I'm the only one involved,” said Carrie Hawks, who completed Springboard’s UX/UI Design Career Track and is now a motion graphics designer at Bustle. “By having another person that I could talk to about my progress, assignments, and questions, it helped my accountability.”

“The mentorship was one of the biggest net positives of the program,” said Springboard graduate Consuelo Valdes, who now works as a UX designer for CloudLock. “At the time, I was making a critical decision in my career—whether to leave my current job for a new one. I wasn’t sure what I should do, and I turned to my mentor Megan for advice.

“In our conversations, Megan shared her story. She told me how she had made decisions in her career, and she was very open and upfront about answering personal questions, like what drove her and why,” Valdes said. “I found it incredibly insightful to see how she discovered what she wanted, and it helped me understand what I wanted myself.”

Women Leading the Way in UX/UI Design

Despite the low number of women in UX leadership roles, the few who do hold leadership positions are some of the most influential and pioneering executives in the profession and have received global recognition for their significant bodies of work. A few industry leaders include:

  • Laura Granka — Director of Research at Google
  • Amy Deschenes — Head of UX and Digital Accessibility at Harvard Library
  • Julie Zhuo — former VP of product design at Facebook
  • Libby Maurer — VP of User Experience at HubSpot
  • Susan Kare — Graphic designer who made early typeface and interface contributions to the Apple Macintosh 
  • Charlotte Fiell — Leading Design Historian
  • Carly Lodge — Design Manager at Instagram

“We’re often our own worst enemy when it comes to putting ourselves down,” said Kim Mackenzie-Doyle, founder of Why Design. “We need to be our own motivational coaches, trust our instincts, and back ourselves.”

And the climb toward leadership doesn’t have to be a solitary path, according to Luana Cavalcanti of Ladies That UX. She chalks the success of many UX designers to having a strong network and community to learn from and lean on.

“It was through my mentor that I learned about Ladies That UX, and that really boosted my career,” Cavalcanti said. “It helped me to place myself in the market and even to figure out my strengths and weaknesses.”

Check out our other great content honoring women working in tech. Springboard is a proud partner of Women Who Code in addition to offering several scholarships for women in tech.

Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?

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