Male versus Female Designers

Some time ago, we wrote the polemic article “70 designers that shaped the world”. After suggestions, we made the “Another 30 designers that shaped the world”. One thing that called attention was the few women present on the lists. Looking at the 100 designers, only 8 were women – among them, Eileen Gray, Zaha Hadid, Jean Muir, Vivienne Westwood, Irma Boom, Matali Crasset, Ray Eames e “Coco” Chanel. Is there any prejudice with women? Are there more male or female designers on the market? Does the gender really make a difference?

We can obviously conclude that something is wrong. Either women can’t work as well as men (which we know it’s not correct) or women are treated different than men for work. Women have been treated as subordinates since prehistory, it’s understandable that it wouldn’t change suddenly. But it’s not suddenly anymore, it has passed about six thousand years since prehistory.
Today I can see in the market that some companies choose designers considering the gender, most times in these cases, they rather man. One of the reasons for that is that they claim woman to be more sensitive or unstable (like having difficult to deal with criticism). Also, this is a subjective matter. Both men and women can have this kind of problem. I’ve heard about women that was rejected for a job just for being a woman or even got the job, but with a lower salary then the men’s.
On the other hand, sometimes they say a female touch is required. I myself have gone through a job interview on which they preferred me because I’m a girl and there were only man at the agency. They said they needed a female sensitivity, softer layouts and fresh delicate ideas. Again, it’s too subjective. A good designer does any kind of work, delicate, grungy, dark, light.
I’m not being feminist, we know that men and women are different and it’s natural. But both have the same capacity to do the same job without interferences caused by the gender. We must think that each person is different – there are good male designers and good female designers. And it’s hard to believe that in the XXI century there is still discrimination for woman. I seriously hope it will be gone in a near future.
What about you? As a woman, have you ever gone by some problem (or advantage) at the job just for being a woman? As a man, have you ever seen any kind of female discrimination? I told you how I feel about this issue, now tell me your experiences and opinions.

19 thoughts on “Male versus Female Designers”

  1. Good point, I find myself wondering about that every so often.
    I think it’s worth noting that there’s another possibility that you didn’t mention. You said that you think that either women can’t work as well as men, or that people prefer men’s designs over women’s. But then you also said that there were only men in the company in which you worked.
    I believe that the reason there are so many male designers in comparison to female is the same reason as there are so many more male physicists than female – it’s just something that men seem to be more willing to do as a profession. Based on the people that I know, the creative male friends I have tend to design things like websites or flash applications, and the female friends I have who look for creative outlets tend to draw or write. I’m not sure why this is, but perhaps it’s a reason for the majority of designers being male?

  2. I don’t favor female designers over male designers or male designers over female designers. Looking at Clothes designers Vivienne Westwood is fantastic and designs some great male clothes but I tend to where clothes by male designers, Armani, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker I don’t know why that is, but then you look at a lot of clothes designed by female designers and they are aimed at more of a female market such as Anne Fontaine, Karen Millen yet clothes designed by males are aimed more at both.

  3. I think it should be more about what you can produce compared to what your gender is. I work at a small company, and I’m the only woman here. I am their graphic and embroidery desiger and feel no discrimination, even though I do get my feelings stepped on sometimes. I think it is all a matter of perspective for the designer. A woman can make a manly design just as well as a man can make a feminine design. Some of my more masculine designs have been my top selling ones. It’s all how the art is presented. I think the only reason that there are more men in the field is that one, the world still had the gender mantality where men are better than women and second, women sometimes decide after being in the field to get out to have an family and then have a hard time getting back in due to the fact they haven’t been in the field in a while and they have to break through the sterotype again.

  4. Having spent five years in Architecture school; many years in art classes before, and now a few years practicing outside of school; I’ve seen a bit of this byplay at work and school.
    Design-wise I never have noticed a difference in talent between males and females. There are scads of talented ladies out there as well as men.
    I have noticed a difference in ‘accepting criticism’. The women I have worked with have all had a varying degree of difficulty accepting critical comments on their work. In school it was much more prevalent than it is out. To be fair there were men who had a hard time with criticism as well; though there seemed to be fewer.
    The men usually would get either defensive or busy, turning the criticism into motivation to work (not always good work, but work all the same). The ladies have tended to take that criticism and turn in into a personal attack that leaves them emotional and unmotivated; weather it was intended as such or not.
    I have a good friend who is a female Architect and during school we had a professor who was singularly hard on her because they were both female (the rest of the design studio was male). The professor took the line that she should push the girl to do better to prove that she was just as good or better than the men. Unfortunately my friend did not share the attitude and took the professor’s, particularly hard, criticisms as personal attacks.
    Another other issue I’d like to comment on is one of ‘worker productivity’. In the profession of Architecture there tend to be two types of firms. The first the the traditional ‘your-life-belongs-to-design’ type that expects employees to spend the great majority of their time at work; usually about 60 hours a week. The second is a ‘family-oriented’ firm that focuses on getting more productivity in during your standard 40 hours and understanding that employees have lives outside of work.
    In regards to the two above have heard of some employers considering the possibility, and even genetic pre-disposition, of women to begin gearing their lives for children starting in the mid-twenties and on.
    Some view this as a ‘lack of commitment’ to the profession; while others just don’t like the cut in productivity.
    Family oriented firms (like the one I work for) tend to take a much ‘softer’ view on this and really try to let their employees (male and female) have time for family.
    Either way you slice it I think women are really coming into their own in the ‘design’ fields and in the coming decades you’re going to see a new ‘equality’ setting itself up with women equaling men on all fronts.

  5. When I started my degree in Graphic Design people joked that I was doing it to find a man, because it’s tended to be a male saturated program, but my classes were mainly with girls! To be fair, there were many more girls at my college to start with, but even outside of that I’ve met more women graphic designers than men.
    I’d say that’s a recent development though. Perhaps the women of this generation have not had the chance yet to change the history of design 😉

  6. @mike
    Interesting comments, Mike. Specially the story of your architect friend. It shows that some women (like her professor) try so hard to make women look superior that forgets to look at what they’re really doing. That’s the problem of worrying too much about stereotypes.
    Wow, I’ve never seen more women than men (in class or at work). Maybe it’s a geographical matter, where are you from? And if there’s a real increasing of women in design (I think so) let’s hope now we can make part of history too. 😉

  7. I think its all about that man and woman look at things differently, take actions differently and so for any team/company/business to be successful required both

  8. Sex doesn’t really matter in the business. Men who are better at fashion design than women generally have better ideas. Also, the woman’s body is rather simple as far as fashion goes.

    1. @Tom
      IMHO sex doesn’t matter in terms of achievements and responsibility, but I do think there are some Inherent characteristics or skills due to social constrains or brain differences that indeed make girls more suitable for some tasks than others and company should take advantage of that. For example I do think womans are more organized and more attention to detail than man but man tend to be better problem solvers. Off course all this vary due to cultural paradigms and the personality of each individuo.

  9. Ann@Wii softmod

    I don’t think that gender is still an issue in every industry. There are so many women out there who actually themselves to become highly competitive. So whether you’re a male or a female, both of you deserves respect.

  10. I would think this is a result of women being treated differently. Thankfully society is now treating the sexes much more equally. Hopefully this will result in more women finding their way into the top 100.

  11. Its all about end-results.
    I totally agree with “A good designer does any kind of work, delicate, grungy, dark, light.”
    I have seen LESSER number of female web designers on the web, be it from any part of the world. Its a male-dominent society, since AGES (im a male, btw)
    I also know a web designer (girl) from US who wants to remain hidden behind her boyish-email-id and doesn’t wana disclose the fact that she is a girl. Just to avoid people thinking about anything other than business ?
    Strange world.

  12. Honestly, I can usually, but not always, tell if a design was created by a man or woman just by looking at it.
    Like it or not, there are fundamental differences between the genders. Some people exist in a middle ground in many ways, but for the majority of the population men and women are different. This has always been true and will always be true. The lines may be more blurry than they used to be, but they’re still there.
    I’m not saying that men are better than women or visa versa, but there are definite identifiable differences in the majority of the population.
    Sometimes a job is best suited to a man, sometimes a woman… that’s just the way it is. Would you prefer that men and women were exactly the same in every way?

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