Diversity and inclusivity are the heart of creativity. At Handsome, we strive to bring together different experiences, perspectives, and ideas to create something new — something that makes the world better for more people.
Considering diversity — of backgrounds, experiences, and skill-sets — in this way was the driving force behind the development of DesignCraft: Women + Design, which I was fortunate enough to facilitate earlier this month in Seattle.
At DesignCraft: Women + Design, we brought together an incredible group of women design leaders to discuss the impact women are having in creating more diverse and inclusive cultures, and ultimately better products and services.
These women’s stories left those in attendance inspired to further their own craft in a number of meaningful ways. For those unable to attend, I wanted to share some of the stories these impressive design leaders shared — stories that have stayed with me since I flew home to Austin from Seattle.
The Importance of Asking Questions to Create More Inclusive Environments
Each woman talked at length about the importance of admitting you (really, no one) has all the answers, yet there continues to be fear and sometimes shame associated with asking questions. Knowledge is power, and asking questions is the key to accessing and disseminating that power. Even asking questions as simple as, “what is that acronym everyone keeps using that no one seems to know?” helps disrupt and disseminate the (often homogenous and male-dominated) power grid, and edge the entire group closer towards a more inclusive environment.
Knowledge is power, and asking questions is the key to accessing and disseminating that power. Even asking questions as simple as, “what is that acronym everyone keeps using that no one seems to know?” helps disrupt and disseminate the (often homogenous and male-dominated) power grid, and edge the entire group closer towards a more inclusive environment.
The group also emphasized the importance of reflection and self-awareness alongside a need for clarity to create more inclusive cultures. Our world revolves around the people we engage with, both our team members and the users we design for. Creating psychologically safe environments, practicing empathy for coworkers and those on the user-end of the experience — acknowledging who is and isn’t in the room with you throughout the process— helps you stay connected to the greater context and keeps you more in tune with the flow of the creative system.
Embracing Individuality and Diversity
Thinking back on experiences and considering alternative outcomes offers good insights into how to approach new challenges. Growth only stems from evolving the self by adapting to outside-the-box experiences and engaging with unfamiliar perspectives.
Over the course the evening, each DesignCraft: Women + Design panelist shared they had suffered from imposter syndrome at one point or another in their careers. We discussed as a group that by learning to accept ourselves as we are, appreciating our unique strengths, and digesting outside opinions as hearty food for thought, we take one step closer toward personal success. Only after embracing our individuality can we extend the same sentiment to others, fostering community growth.
Only after embracing our individuality can we extend the same sentiment to others, fostering community growth.
Take your time with growth — change takes time. Think of change as the process of bettering yourself, rather than becoming someone else entirely. Our differences make us valuable as members of a larger community. Each of us holds individual skills that help define our character. Growth helps us flesh out these individual skills in order to strengthen our personal identity — our light — and cultivate confidence.
Take your time with growth — change takes time. Think of change as the process of bettering yourself, rather than becoming someone else entirely.
Structuring Relationships with Mentors, Sponsors, and Allies to Overcome Your Fear of Failure and Create More Diverse Environments
We talked at length about the value of failure as it relates to growth and how it encourages powerful POVs. Fear of failure and the unknown often go hand-in-hand as a roadblock to success. The clarification that comes through thoughtful inquiry mutually benefits both individual understanding and company growth.
So, asking questions is important. But, who should you direct some of those questions at? Mentors, sponsors, and allies serve very different relationship functions, and knowing which person would be able to give you the answer you need is equally as important as asking a question that gets at what you want to know. Simply put: mentors teach you, sponsors advocate for you, and allies help you influence your surrounding culture.
Simply put: mentors teach you, sponsors advocate for you, and allies help you influence your surrounding culture. Developing a plan of action with a key date in mind for each relationship helps you organize your thoughts, state your intentions clearly, create a timeline to work against, and prioritize staying ahead of your progress.
Before approaching a mentor or sponsor, developing a plan of action helps you organize your thoughts, state your intentions clearly, create a timeline to work against, and prioritize staying ahead of your progress. Doing so offers you the highest rate of success in finding the most helpful answer to your question. Always prepare a backup plan to practice flexibility and stay on track for completing your goals.
Allies are leaders or peers in leadership positions. Their responsibility layers on top of your own, creating collective accountability for the two of you as a team. They trust the expertise of your design and craft and encourage or expect you to manage your goals independently. As a part of a team, you should emulate the energy of your allies in order to ensure the cohesive aspect of the group, while bringing your own insight to the table.
A final takeaway from DesignCraft: Women + Design was the importance of considering different perspectives from team members and your company community as a whole. Listening to all sides is a matter of both quality and quantity: you want to make sure every voice is heard. Then, you can refine your craft, tailoring it to encompass your individual style alongside the helpful perspectives of others. You can explore your unique passion for design through the eyes of another. This form of collaboration upholds the standard of inclusivity and diversity that creativity demands.
Special thanks once again to the wonderfully inspiring women who participated in DesignCraft: Women + Design, both as panelists and as engaged attendees. Panel members of our event included: Senior Manager of Product Design at Hulu, Linda Sum; Head of UX/Design at Amazon, Reem Gamil; Senior UX Designer at HBO, Natalie Tobey-Breunig; UX Leader at Google, Nafisa Bhojawala; Senior Product Manager at Nordstrom, Karianna Johnson; Senior UX Designer at T-Mobile, Jaye Kovach; and Product Design Leader at Facebook, Michelle Kapnias.
If you would like to learn more about DesignCraft, and kept up-to-date about our future events, email us at email@example.com