CDW 2019 – The year Women made themselves more visible

30 May 2019  |  People  |  Design  |  Trends  |  News

A number of the women in Sketch Studios have benefitted from the “Women in Fourfront” course designed to help women within our business achieve their full potential by focussing on the four “Cs” – Confidence, Communication, Contribution and Credibility.  We were obviously keen therefore to attend the two particular events aimed at women in our industry at Clerkenwell Design week last week.

First up was the “darc thoughts: Women in Design” event held in the midst of the lighting exhibition hosted at Fabric nightclub. The panel consisted of members of the Women in Lighting group and was chaired by WiL UK ambassador Greta Smetoniute of Michael Grubb Studio.

Sadly, familiar stories from the panel included being asked to take the drinks order in meetings as well as being accused of being bossy and shouty. The fact that we are still having this conversation is proof that these issues still exist in an industry where only 22% of the top management are women, leading to the question of whether the lack of female heroes to look up to is a contributing factor to why there is not more senior women. There was also a nod to the competition that does exist between women with a member of the panel using a very apt quote: “I have never had to unscrew another woman’s lightbulb in order to shine”.

Although the discussion was short, it did end on a positive note, highlighting the importance of having mentors and the fact we as women need to ensure we learn from both women and men, the need to speak up and say how we feel to help and inspire the younger ones entering our professions.

The second event we attended was a panel discussion “Power Women of Design (London)” part of the Conversations at Clerkenwell held in Spa Fields Park. The event was hosted by the increasingly popular Women in Office Design (WOD) group founded by Harsha Kotak who also chaired the discussion. An often-cited criticism is around why there is such a need for a group aimed predominantly at women (although men are always welcome and encouraged to attend also!) - to quote the WOD LinkedIn page to answer this: “Research proves that women do not network as much as men do and that can hinder their progress. So, this group is formed with a purpose to Share, Inspire and Achieve.”

Both men and women from Sketch have attended a number of the WOD events and have found the opportunity to expand their industry knowledge, their networks and their business links invaluable and the event at CDW19 was no different. The strong panel of leading women included Jane Clay, Principle Designer at Gensler, Caroline Pontifex a partner at KKS and Gill Parker, CEO at BDG Architecture.

There were similar themes to the darc event around the fact that it is largely against women’s nature to take as many risks or indeed to self-promote as much as their male colleagues putting them at a disadvantage. All panellists highlighted the importance of speaking up and voicing their opinions / ideas, making sure we have the right conversations but whilst also highlighting that as managers and leaders, we need to ensure we lead by example, being friendlier and more empowering of one another.

The panel ended discussing the need for work life balance and whether we should be looking at this more as a blend or pendulum - or is it in fact the holy grail never to be obtained?

Despite the fact that most of the more senior women on both panels had experienced challenges in their careers, we definitely took away a positive from the fact that the balance is tipping and the more junior women are being given more equal opportunities than ever before.

2018 may have marked 100 years of women’s suffrage in the UK but CDW 2019 certainly give air space and opportunity to address the continued lack of senior women in the commercial interiors and construction industry and for that reason it gets a thumbs up from us.

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