Talk UX started back in 2015 as a conference where women could speak up and share their ideas and experience
The goal back then was to create the same atmosphere as a Ladies that UX meetup – informal, relaxed and welcoming. It’s fair to say the team achieved not only that but have certainly seen their hope that Talk UX would travel the world and be used by communities across the world as a tool for women to stand up and start talking, realised.
But the gender conversation has changed since 2015. In many ways, we’ve seen progress – gender representation at conferences and talks gets better all the time, with local conferences like NUX and UX in the City leading the charge. And we make positive steps away from gender as a binary all the time. So, what’s important to us now, is to continue to advance equality and to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender is welcome at Talk UX.
So, if you’re reading this and wondering “what part can I play in bringing about positive change when it comes to gender equality?”, here are some suggestions for you.
Be an ally and a champion
Mentoring and coaching are excellent things to do – if you do those things, good on you, and keep it up. But look at where you can bring actual tangible opportunity to others around you to help create a gender diverse environment.
“These days, I don’t hold back and am my own champion!
Llara – Talk UX Organiser and Head of UX at User Conversion
Talk UX Organiser, and Head of UX at User Conversion, Llara tells us “My first role in UX was at an agency in Edinburgh. I was majorly insecure when I started because of the sheer amount of talent around me – incredible designers, red hot developers and an amazing UX design team. I didn’t let this hold me back and set about learning as much as I could from all the wonderful people I had the good fortune to work alongside. But I was still really surprised when I was contacted by a designer who’d left the agency about a brilliant opportunity where he’d landed. He championed me with his new employers and I went for, and got, the job – not only a confidence boost at the time, but something that’s stayed with me. These days, I don’t hold back and am my own champion!”
Build and encourage but treat fairly
It isn’t about an unwarranted leg-up – this is about encouraging women and non-binary people, who statistically are less likely to go for an opportunity than a similarly qualified man, to seize opportunities. And, if you’re an employer, do your bit by ensuring pay parity across genders.
Jenni, Engagement and Communications Lead at AQA, and Talk UX Co-organiser tells us about a formative experience: “Back when I was an early career brand planner at John Lewis, I worked with a designer who truly showed me what collaboration meant. We managed to nurture a creative relationship within the framework of a corporate organisation to push boundaries and get our new ideas heard. We were always on a level and he was generous enough to show me that I was ‘design-minded’. I’ve always had imposter syndrome that tells me because I’m not a qualified graphic designer, that my creative visualisation isn’t legitimate and, somehow, George championed me while also showing me how to champion myself.”
Tellingly, she continues, “I never really saw his gender but, over the last decade, in a working world where I unfortunately usually do face the gender stereotypes we’re all familiar with, he stands out by a mile.”
Llara adds, “Back in my customer service days at schuh, my pal Neil knew I was frustrated where I was and, when an opportunity came up in Marketing, he encouraged me to go for it. And this wasn’t about getting your pals into your team – it was on his head if I’d sucked! At this point, I’d worked in customer service since leaving school and saw myself as stuck and unqualified to do anything else. He saw someone who understood customer motivations and behaviours better than any 1st class marketing grad going for the role. His encouragement was instrumental in nodding me towards the path I’m on now – I genuinely don’t know where I’d be now without that support and belief.”
Educate and empower yourself
Equality applies for all – men included. So demand equality for you too – whether that’s paternity rights or exploring woefully under-utilised entitlements like shared parental leave. And expect to be able to discuss concerns and emotions freely in the workplace, without fear of recrimination or ridicule. Happily these are areas in which we continue to see improvement, but it’s slow progress.
And do ask questions – check in on someone’s preferred gender pronoun if you’re in doubt. Ask if there’s anything you can do to improve diversity in your workplace. If you’re reading this, with any luck, you do or want to do these things already!
Support events like Talk UX
Talk UX started to give visibility to women. But to have an audience of only women doesn’t advance equality in any way. We need people of all genders to come along on the day and learn from our incredible speakers. They’re all brilliant at what they do – a mix of newer and more experienced voices, experts in their fields, talking about what they’re good at. That’s for everyone, regardless of gender. In 2015, 60% of the audience was male – we hope to see a great split again this time.
Which, really is where we conclude. Jenni said it already “I never really saw his gender” – that’s as it should be. Let’s leave old gender tropes and ideals behind us, and move forward focussed on people’s talent and ability and creating opportunity and diversity and the best fit person. Talk UX will continue to exist while we continue to need to improve women’s visibility – but that’s about us being visible to all.