Kern the Gap! By Mandy Barker
On Monday, I (Mandy, Creative Director) attended a mentor event as part of Kerning the Gap (KTG) at The Fables, London. KTG is an inclusive network to push equality and diversity in the design industry. They have set up a yearly mentor scheme to empower and support women in the creative industry.
Why do we need KTG?
“Kerning The Gap is a collective of like-minded people who want to see more women in design leadership roles, hear their voices and be inspired to create change.”
The gender stats in the design industry are poor. Unfortunately, it is very much a patriarchal industry within leadership roles. KTG aims to raise awareness of this gender divide, and the challenge women face in industry in terms of professional growth into leadership. A more equal gender balance will create forward moving agencies, and inspire younger women, positively affecting equality.
KTG has set up a yearly mentor scheme to empower younger women. Creative leaders (mentors) are matched with ambitious female creatives (mentees). The mentor works closely with the mentee for one year to create a vision and support towards development.
A mentor scheme has a range of personal and professional benefits. The mentor can learn from fresh ideas, attitude and passion of the mentee, and the mentee gains invaluable knowledge and experience, and objective support. Mentor schemes are not new by any means, however, a mentor scheme set up to pioneer the equality gap in the creative industry in such an innovative way is – and is much needed. Thank you KTG!
What can we do?
“Agencies can take the first step by looking inwards at their business model and their creative leaders. By looking at their own internal teams, they can then acknowledge if they need to be more gender-balanced.” Sally Henderson on the Kerning The Gap Podcast.
Investment in planning and professional development will provide creative leadership opportunities to all genders. Female leadership positions can be effectively encouraged by building and supporting female talent. Agencies can also help by adapting to flexible working, which seems to be the way the economy is evolving. It is no longer a case of fixed and rigid working, particularly in the creative industry. Flexible working will benefit everyone, enhancing productivity and creativity. All genders also need to take some ownership for their own professional development, by creating a clear plan and looking for role models (such as a mentor).
At the beginning of the event, Nat introduced some stats and slides that I was (and wasn’t-don’t know which is worst) surprised to see. It showed that in top leading agencies, most creative leaders are men, even the few businesses that were started by women:
• 70% of graphic design students are women; yet only 11% are Creative Directors.
• Girls consistently outperform boys in all spectrums of education, yet only 18% of the board of FTSE 250 businesses are women.
• The Drum’s 2015 list of the top 100 ‘designerati’ features 13 women.
• David Cameron has insisted that businesses over 250 publish their pay scales, yet 98% of design businesses employ less than 50 people.
These stats taken from KTG show the number of female design is high, however, that the majority of creative leadership positions are taken by men. These stats were enough for us to understand why we were there, to create our own opportunities and development plans, using the support of our mentors.
The event was set up speed dating style (with a bell ringer and everything!). Each mentee had a pen and paper, and had ten minutes to chat to as many mentors as possible over an hour and a half. We used this time to ask questions with each potential mentor. Ten minutes wasn’t long to ascertain whether you wanted to spend a year with this person, but it’s long enough to see if there was a mutual connection. Mentors included creative directors, business owners, production managers, interior designers and more.
Being a KTG mentee is an invaluable opportunity to connect with like-minded inspiring female leaders, and to have a critical ‘friend’ that you can share concerns or ideas with to help you grow professionally and personally. It’s also invaluable to an objective viewpoint that will positively challenge you and/or your business. There were some exceptional people there. I am looking forward to seeing who I am matched with!
KTG are a very forward moving network, inclusive of all genders, and it was great to see a few male mentors on Monday that were supporting the initiative. All in all, it was definitely worth a trip down from the North!
KTG take on two intakes a year, so if you’re interested (graduates, designers, employed, self employed, agency owners) sign up!
Ladies, be empowered, know your worth and make it happen.
Image from http://www.refinery29.uk/