Is Design related to the big Gender Gap?

I recently read something really shocking. According to the 2021 Global Gender Gap report, it will take us almost 136 years to close the Gender Gap worldwide, after the big breakdown of the Pandemic.

You can read the complete report here

That means that if we don’t rush to do something, being born or identifying as a woman will continue being viewed as a “lesser-than”. We will continue receiving less educational and employment opportunities, which includes  lower salaries than our male counterparts. We will be less likely to feel safe in workplaces or even have less freedom to make decisions about our bodies for more than a whole century. Can we wait that long? Of course not. 

We live in a world where Technology plays an important role in our lives, yet comes with a big Gender Gap in the workforce. The ones who build, create and shape all the Algorithms, Softwares, Digital Spaces and Robots that feed our economies also define the way our world looks and works. However, only 3 out of 10 people who work in Tech and Computer Science are women. We’re  basically living in a world that hasn't been designed for us or by us. 

The big problem with the homogeneous teams that have been shaping Technology is that they all think the same way. A predominantly male point of view influences the design approach for most of the things we do or have today. A good example of this is Google’s Voice Recognition System. Its accuracy to recognize a female voice could be 26% lower than a male voice. This is a clear and significant gender bias, and highlights the importance of having more diverse teams in our work environments. More inclusive Design can be created from increasingly diverse teams, including more people of different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and abilities, that help us break down the barriers and biases that affect the Design process today.

In addition to diverse teams, we also need to involve diverse people in our process. If we never get close enough to the big spectrum of human beings that will use and will be affected by our products or services, we will perpetuate the hegemonic point of view of Design that has been so harmful for our context. Designing for diversity not only has the power to impact in a positive way more human beings, it also reflects how people really are. All humans grow and adapt to the world around them, that’s why we should make our designs reflect it in a more accurate way than the way we have seen for several decades.

At this point I believe that Design is key, because Design in itself is a political act, and in order to produce changes for a better world in the future, we must act with total awareness of what we are responsible for today. Our Design work, big or small, is always impactful. It shapes values and rituals that may transform and affect individuals, their communities and the environment of future generations. Knowing this, we must consider the repercussions of our choices and always have all of these factors in mind during our daily work. This will not be an easy task.

Michelle Obama once said:

The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls

This inspires us to keep acknowledging our power and place in the world. It is the responsibility of everyone (not only of women) to continue to fight for equality and diversity, using the huge list of arguments and evidence, instead of sitting by the sidelines in apathy or ego. We, as women, must fight the fears and insecurities we still carry inside, because of the way the world has been designed, and keep working to reduce the gender gap supporting initiatives.

An example of an initiative we need to get behind is  Laboratoria. They are a non profit organization that is helping women, including myself, in different corners of Latin America to be part of the Tech Industry. This community has taught me how to open doors and leave them open for the fearless new generation of women that are following behind. 

So, is Design truly related to the big Gender Gap? Definitely. As Mike Monteiro once mentioned in his book Ruined by Design: “The world isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as it was designed to work. And we’re the ones who designed it”. Consequently we are at the core where decisions are made. We can choose to do it right, to do it better, to do it more inclusive and fairly, or at least try as hard as possible.

Today I’m part of a Design team in which 41% are women. Yet, there are also the Development teams to consider,  whose average of female staff is only 12%. Companies should consider modifying recruitment processes, creating spaces to talk about the unconscious gender bias on the day to day and supporting any initiatives that help us to build better equality. It's obviously easier to write it or read it than just doing it, even so, having awareness of it is a good place to start, but we need to move fast, we can’t wait another 136 years to happen.

About the author

Camila Riscanevo is UX Designer whose main interest is focused on the strategic part of the design process. Camila has participate actively in different projects focused on user research.