How Pentagram and other design agencies aim to double the number of creative female leaders

Double or Nothing is the name of a campaign backed by AIGA, the largest professional organisation for creatives in the US, and leading agencies, to to double the number of women in design leadership roles across the globe.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is a non-profit organisation for design. Its Women Lead Initiative is joined by leading creative agencies such as Pentagram, Blue State Digital, LippincottIBM and Decker Design to back the Double or Nothing campaign, which launched a website (designed by Pentagram) to build a collective of designers "who are dedicated to fixing the pay and promotion problem for women". The website is the first step to build momentum. An AIGA workshop in April for corporations will follow, to create an official 'pledge' to the cause.

Essentially, supporters of the campaign can be split into two camps – those who are looking for guidance and mentorship – perhaps those who wish to be a female creative leader but aren’t sure how to get there – and others who are willing to share best practices and ideas. As well as doubling the number of women in leadership roles, the campaign aims to provide career mentorship, celebration of female work, support for mothers and advocacy for equal pay.

Female design leadership currently ranges from four to 11 percent, depending upon business sector and individual survey. This low percentage exists despite the fact that 53.5 percent of designers are female, according to the latest Design Census by AIGA. And women who are in creative leadership roles earn less than US$0.80 on the dollar compared with their male counterparts.

“At this state of their career, women often do not feel empowered to negotiate pay and the position they deserve or are reluctant to ask for guidance,” says Lynda Decker of Decker Design and co-chair of AIGA’s Women Lead Committee.

Double or Nothing aims to bring tangible change to that.

“We will be working with a number of leading corporations to create something that is highly actionable,” says Lynda.

“IBM, for example, recently won the Catalyst award and they are committed to diversity in the workplace. IBM is also committed to AIGA and the role of design in business. I think that the industry—and the women in the industry will hold companies accountable. There is a war for talent right now and companies that do not present sufficient opportunity will suffer.”

The Double or Nothing website will be updated with practical toolkits, career advice and inspiring testimonies from female designers in the coming weeks. Currently, the best way to get involved with the campaign is by signing up to the Double or Nothing email.

“When an agency signs up, they are articulating an acknowledgement of the need to support women in the workplace,” says Lynda.

“As we grow the movement and articulate best practices, more and more will want to implement improvements to the workplace because they will want to retain their best people — who are often women.”

British-based independent design consultancy Pentagram provided the name, brand identity, voice and website design as seen below.

“We’re looking for companies to make a public pledge of commitment and to be held accountable for meeting goals,” says Emily Oberman of Pentagram.

And AIGA partner IBM – having won the Catalyst award for its efforts in supporting women in the workplace – can facilitate female mentorship, training and support for mothers. It will develop “best practices” for companies to adopt in order to accelerate progress for female designers.

“In small firms, that happens more casually, in larger organisations, it is more formalised, sometimes. We probably need to think more about career journeys. Women often need flexibility since childrearing and elder care often fall on their shoulders,” Lynda says.

Lynda says "success is not just a numeric goal", but it’s about capturing this moment where people are ready to listen and women are ready to take action.

“We will ultimately be successful when the phrase, 'I can’t think of a woman who would be qualified to __________' is removed from our lexicon.”

AIGA will partner with Quartz’s How We’ll Win project, which is a year-long exploration of the fight for gender equality.

How We’ll Win highlights strategies for supporting inclusivity, women in power, and the next generation of leaders, including insights from some of the world's most powerful and influential women across every industry.

To inquire about how your company can get involved, contact [email protected]

Double or Nothing follows a pledge set up by Wieden+Kennedy and Creature to pay full-time staff, freelancers, interns and work experience adults a real living wage.

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