Breaking the Glass Ceiling Before Entering the Building

The (beginning of a) story of starting a workplace diversity club at the Savannah College of Art and Design

Sarah Beth Doncals
Apr 17, 2020 · 4 min read
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his story begins at my summer internship at Uber. I met some amazing people and witnessed the strong female empowerment presence there.

I was sitting in on a panel discussing women in leadership. The talk emphasized how important it is to start recognizing issues at a junior level. The design field might look even from a high level, but most leadership positions are held by men. I was sitting there thinking why aren’t we talking about this in school?

I knew why this conversation had not been started at SCAD. We are a group of students that have not faced these issues. I am a believer in being proactive rather than reactive. We should be talking about these issues before we even enter the workforce. I knew this is something I wanted to bring back from my internship.

I pitched the idea to FLUX, the SCAD UX Club, and they were more than happy to give me the platform. SCAD trains us to be great designers with hard skills. In my opinion, soft skills are just as important. I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring soft skills into the picture.

I was terrified for the first meeting. Yes, this topic is important to talk about but it can be awkward. On my way to the meeting, I remember thinking is this even valid? If students at SCAD were not aware of the problem, how can I get them on board? Am I making something out of nothing?

I also had a fear of this meeting coming off as an exclusive women’s club when it is the opposite. I talked to Nastasha Tan, Head of Design at Uber ATG, before my summer at Uber ended. She expressed the importance of having the group be diverse. The power lies when the majority understands the struggles of the minorities.

For the first meeting, I gave a 10-minute pitch of why I’m doing this:

  1. I’ve been in male-dominated work environments

2. Being a female leader is harder than it seems

3. I want students to be aware of problems in the workplace before we get there

4. We can be the generation to change this

Formal presentations are not my style. For the rest of the meeting, I sat on the floor and took notes on what the 30 attendees wanted to learn throughout our next meetings. Students were interested in how to be a strong ally, negotiating salary, and how to stand up for yourself just to name a few.

I had talked to Suanne Fu, the chair of ITGM at SCAD, about Ladies in Tech from when the idea popped into my mind. I was excited to share the insights I gathered from the first meeting. Her immediate feedback was that I needed to make Ladies in Tech it’s own club. We could have a much larger impact from having consistent meetings with a separate club. It was not in my plans to start a club my senior year, but if I wanted to leave anything behind at SCAD, it was this.

I reached out to Kimberly Lopez, the VP of Career and Alumni Success at SCAD, to be the advisor for the club. We are now recognized by the university as an official club. Our mission statement is SCAD Ladies In Tech exists to support diversity in employment and leadership by establishing a community and developing soft skills for the design world.

The club has grown to about 40 passionate people. Most recently, the club held a panel of students and professors discussing workplace culture.

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SCAD Ladies in Tech Officers & Panelists

We have big plans for the future from a mentorship program to workshops. This is just the beginning of this club. I wish I had more time at SCAD to see it come to fruition. I know the club is in good hands.

The main thing I learned from starting this club is to feel the fear and do it anyway. I remember staying awake at night wondering if I should even bring this up. I’m so glad I did. If the people around you are not talking about something you know is right, be the one to speak up. You never know, a club might come out of it.

I couldn’t have done this without the amazing support and mentorship I received. Thank you to…

Nastasha Tan for starting the conversation and helping me find this path.

Suanne Fu for guiding me in the right direction and hearing me out since day one.

Kimberly Lopez for being my mentor and official advisor of the club.

Cherie Chung for being my right-hand girl and co-founding the club. I’m so excited to see what you do.

Everyone in the club. You and your ideas inspire me every damn day.

SCAD Flux

Articles, case studies, and think-pieces from FLUX, the…

Sarah Beth Doncals

Written by

currently building my design / human skills @ scad | product design @ uber

SCAD Flux

SCAD Flux

Submit your articles here https://forms.gle/15UxVeFJ5EcyFZhq7 Articles, case studies, and think-pieces from FLUX, the User Experience Design club at SCAD. For more about us, visit http://scadflux.com

Sarah Beth Doncals

Written by

currently building my design / human skills @ scad | product design @ uber

SCAD Flux

SCAD Flux

Submit your articles here https://forms.gle/15UxVeFJ5EcyFZhq7 Articles, case studies, and think-pieces from FLUX, the User Experience Design club at SCAD. For more about us, visit http://scadflux.com

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