With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at gender in product design and to share some of the ways we at OPD seek to step up and be a part of the solution.

“Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured...if any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman.”

As anyone that has read Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men will know, we are surrounded by products built largely for — and by — men. The book explores the gender data gap: a gap in our knowledge that has created a pervasive and invisible bias that has a profound effect on women’s lives.

According to The Design Council, just 5% of designers in product and industrial design today are women. This certainly rings true in our experience - it’s surprisingly rare that a CV from a female product designer crosses our desks. Anecdotally, based on a straw man poll of our staff members, the gender split in product design and engineering courses at degree level in the UK is around 90% male, 10% female.

But in order to arrive at design solutions that solve the right problem for the right audience, it’s critical that design teams represent the diverse needs, experiences and perspectives of the society we are creating products for.

When we cast an eye around the (virtual) OPD office, we’re particularly proud to see so many female faces. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve made four hires into our design and engineering teams, three of whom happen to be women. Project Manager Serena considers the workplace to be “welcoming and inclusive… it’s about growing talent and giving people the opportunities they need to gain experience and grow in their career”.

Clare Wilkinson, Cofounder and Operations Director heads up our recruitment strategy. She’s a passionate voice for equality and explains, “When recruiting, we've been keen to develop a workforce that is representative of both genders and which makes sure women's voices are heard.”

What’s clear is that more needs to be done at education level to even the playing field, with individuals of all genders being encouraged and supported into the industry. One of our Consultants, Ellie, reflects on this “I think there are perceptions of what engineering is that might make people think that it isn’t for them… but it’s a broad subject and if you’re interested in problem solving and creativity, it’s definitely worth exploring.”

For our part, we at OPD have challenged ourselves to build a coaching and mentorship programme that will help us to support all of our employees to grow their expertise, increase their confidence and thrive, going on to become role models for those at earlier stages in their careers.

We’re always looking for opportunities to support diversity in the industry and to meet women looking to work in product design and engineering roles. If that sounds like you, visit our careers page and get in touch.

Learn more about International Women’s Day and discover how you can support the initiative here, or join the conversion using #choosetochallenge and #IWD2021 on Twitter.