To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up five of the most inspirational women in design and tech right now. First, though, a quick reminder of why it’s so important to promote and celebrate diversity within the industry.
Design and technology shape the world around us. Every product or service we engage with has been brought to life by a team of designers, engineers, and developers—from the websites and apps we use on a daily basis, to the cars we drive and the machines we use to make our morning coffee. So what happens when these teams lack diversity? We end up with products that only speak to a certain segment of the population. We miss out on a range of creative ideas and perspectives. We limit ourselves, and our world, to just a narrow, homogenous fraction of talent and genius.
It’s a well-known fact that diverse teams are smarter—and that teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams. Despite this, many fields—including design and tech—continue to suffer from a gender imbalance. Do we really want to live in a world designed only by one gender? Absolutely not. We need women to diversify the tech space and lead us to our full potential. So, in celebration of Women’s History Month and the amazing contributions that women make to our world, we’re shining the spotlight on some of the most inspirational women in design and tech. We’re also offering an International Women’s Day scholarship for CareerFoundry’s design and development programs—you’ll find all the details at the end of this post.
1. Jessica Walsh
The first women on our list is a multi-talented graphic designer, art director, entrepreneur, and all-round champion of women’s empowerment. In a field where women and non-binary people are notoriously outnumbered by men when it comes to leadership positions, Jessica has forged her own pathway to the very top of her game. The first thing you should know about Jessica is that she can’t be bought: legend has it that, at the start of her career, she turned down a job at Apple (and a $100k annual salary) to do an internship with Paula Scher at Pentagram. Since then, Jessica has gone on to found her own creative agency, &Walsh, putting her in the shockingly low 0.1% of creative agencies which are founded by women. While it’s true that she has a whole host of awards and accolades to her name, perhaps the most awe-inspiring thing about Jessica Walsh is how she handles sexism in the industry—and what she’s doing to support other women, non-binary, agender and gender non-conforming designers. In 2016, Jessica started Ladies, Wine & Design, a non-profit initiative which encourages women and non-binary creatives to get together in an inclusive, uplifting environment. Ladies, Wine & Design now has chapters in 280 cities worldwide—you can find your local one here.
2. Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya
An artist and designer with a background in neuroscience, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is on a mission to tackle gender inequality and underrepresentation in both the STEM and design industries—a challenge she’s approaching with remarkable creativity. Some of her most inspirational endeavors include Beyond Curie, an award-winning design project created by Amanda to highlight “badass women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”, and ATOMIC by design, Amanda’s very own fashion line and community for women who want to feed their curiosity while connecting with other like-minded ladies. Amanda was also in the spotlight recently for creating twenty 3D sculptures of women who have helped shape the world through their contributions to STEM. This latest project was Amanda’s response to the disappointing fact that only 7.5% of public statues in the United States are of women. The busts can now be seen as part of Amanda’s Connective Tissue exhibition at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art in Las Vegas.
3. Brinda Somaya
The next remarkable woman in our inspirational line-up is Brinda Somaya, a Mumbai-born architect, urban conservationist, and businesswoman. As a child, Brinda was one of six girls to be accepted onto the Cathedral & John Connon School’s science program, and she has continued to pave the way for other women and girls throughout her impressive career. One thing we can certainly learn from Brinda is that it’s perfectly ok to start small; in her late twenties, she set up her own architectural practice in her back garden! Since then, Brinda has won numerous awards—including the Wienerberger Golden Architect Award for lifetime achievement, making her the first woman in history to receive this particular honour. Alongside her impressive CV, Brinda has worked hard to establish a culture which celebrates the work of women designers and architects. After years of struggling to connect with fellow women in the industry, Brinda conceived the Women in Architecture conference and exhibition, which has now been remodeled as the Women in Design 2020+ conference. In her chairperson’s address, Brinda writes that the conference is a place to “celebrate the diversity and richness of women-driven practices.” You can learn more about Brinda’s inspirational work here.
4. Mina Markham
When it comes to role models for women in design and tech, Mina Markham is up there with the best of them. By day, Mina is a software engineer at Slack. You may also know her for work on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign; Mina built the would-be president’s entire internal design system, otherwise known as Pantsuit—an extremely impressive project she’s written about here. Like all of our inspirational women on this list, when she’s not designing and coding for work or delivering an expert keynote, Mina is busy fighting the lack of equality and diversity within the tech industry. Mina founded the Dallas chapter of Girl Develop It, a non-profit organization that endeavors to “provide affordable and judgement-free opportunities for women of diverse backgrounds to achieve their technology goals and build confidence in their careers.” Mina is also actively involved in Black Girls Code, a non-profit founded by Kimberly Bryant to increase the number of women of color in the digital space. By empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 through exposure to computer science and technology, Mina and the Black Girls Code community hope to train 1 million girls by 2040. You can find all their upcoming events and scholarships here.
5. Catt Small
The final spot on our list goes to Catt Small, a UX designer, game maker, and developer who turned her childhood love of drawing into a career. Catt’s CV boasts some pretty impressive roles, from Senior Product Designer at SoundCloud and Etsy to her most recent role at Asana. We’re not only here to praise Catt’s professional accomplishments, however; we’re also celebrating the crucial work she’s doing to open up the creative and technical space to women and non-binary people. On International Women’s Day back in 2013, Catt co-founded the Code Liberation Foundation—a non-profit organization which “catalyzes the creation of digital games and creative technologies by women, non-binary, femme, and girl-identifying people to diversify STEAM fields.” The foundation operates both in urban hubs and economically disadvantaged communities, ensuring that everybody has the chance to learn life-changing skills. Catt also shares lots of useful tips and advice on her blog, as well as plenty of design inspiration—check it out here.
Become a designer with the help of our Women’s Day Scholarship
If this all-woman round-up has left you feeling inspired to start your own career in tech, now’s the time to check out the CareerFoundry International Women’s Day Scholarship. Here at CareerFoundry, we offer mentored online programs in UX design, UI design, data analytics and web development—all complete with a job guarantee. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re offering all self-identifying women up to $1200 (USD) off the full price of our UX and UI design career-change programs. You’ll be part of a diverse online community from day one: in 2019, 67% of our UX and UI students identified as women, as did 50% of our web development students. You can learn more about how to choose your tech career path in this guide, and you’ll find full details of our Women’s Day scholarship here. What are you waiting for?