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.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
“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.”
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:
“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.”
Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?
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