Back in 2009, Boston Consulting Group stated in the report “The Female Economy” that as a market, women represent a bigger opportunity than China and India combined – and it is a well-known fact that women stand for 80-90 % of all buying decisions in the home. There was also a breaking point in 2009 when, for the first time in US history, women worked as much as men. Three years earlier, The Economist published data regarding countries where women didn’t work, showing that the BNP in these countries stagnated compared to countries with a more balanced workforce. On top of that, studies show that companies run by female CEOs are more financially successful over time. Simply put – women in the workforce is a positive development for everyone – from a corporate as well as national perspective.
Yet male default decisions in design, concepts and policies still remain, making womens’ worklives challenging in a different way than for their male colleagues. In Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, she recounts a situation from her time at Google, where a walk to a meeting from a distant parking space while pregnant led to her asking superiors for designated parking for her and other pregnant coworkers and visitors. Shortly after, Google installed the reserved parking – the reason why it had not been there before was simply because the thought had not occurred to the founders. Sandberg asks herself in her book how many other women had suffered in silence, not wanting to ask for special treatment. Similar stories surface in the tales of business women, a common denominator being that the long absence of women in the workplace has created an environment where male needs are default, and women feel a need to adapt. In fact it is the workplace that should adapt.
When it comes to turning the process around and designing concepts with women in mind from the start, the still relevant successful case of the Volvo YCC – Your Concept Car – is bearing fruit. In 2004, Volvo introduced the YCC, a car designed by women, for women. Today, Volvo states that quite a number of the design features from the YCC have been introduced in commercial cars. The car introduced about fifty new features, of which around twenty have been put into production. Many of these features are technically cutting edge, such as a paddle shift gears, automatic start/stop and automatic parking. The YCC is an example of inclusive design – excellent thinking from a new point of view that fits a broader group of people.
Whether it be reserved parking lots or car features, this type of inclusive design connected to the work environment is becoming more commonplace, giving companies the chance to offer a workplace that stands for gender equality. In turn, a defining step towards inclusive design in the workplace is to diversify the creative industry workplaces at the actual drawing table, as men stand for 83% of the creative industry.
Designing with these challenges in mind in order to support women and men running both careers and homes will be central to all modern workplaces.
This article has been taken from the Kinnarps Trend Report 2015. Click here to download the full research paper.