• Shahina

Celebrating Women In Design

Updated: Nov 2

So this has been sitting in my draft folder for a while now. I have been meaning to do a series of blog posts focusing on women in design but I have never really bolstered up the courage to click the little publish button. I wanted to time things right, and something tells me that that time is now. Women in design is such a fitting topic for women’s history month and international women’s day, and as they say there really is no time like the present. So I have taken a leap of faith and stepped right into it. A couple of days ago, I was exploring the hashtag for IWD2021 on social media and I was completely overwhelmed by the encouraging celebration of women. To see such an outpour of solidarity was awe inspiring. And for the past couple of years I have managed to come up with something inspirational to say on IWD, and yet honestly speaking I struggled quite a bit this year. How could I come up with something different to say this year, when all the issues women face on a day to day basis are yet to change? We are yet to see some semblance of change and reform. And this got me thinking, I have a platform where I can influence change and in turn also educate people on topics not often talked about in the world of design, so why am I not doing that?

As much as it is important for me that I build up and inspire the women around me, I need to start educating people as well. I have a unique position in that I am a woman working in the field of design, British by identity, Indian by ethnicity and Muslim by religion. And that gives me a very unique perspective on many things but it also gives me a beautifully rich and creative heritage and background that I can tap into and celebrate. I have studied and explored the contributions made by Muslim and Indian women in the fields of design, art and architecture. Contributions which span centuries and continents and I want to share that exploration with people. If we take a moment to cast our mind over all the creatives we know of, and celebrate in the world of design, how many of them are Muslim and Indian women? Can we list some of these inspiring women off the top of our heads? And that is where this idea of writing articles celebrating women and in particular Muslim and Indian women in design came from. Diversity, representation and inclusivity has been in conversation in the design world since last year’s Black Lives Matter movement. To be honest, this conversation should not have taken this long to come to the forefront, but it is better late than never. And so I set out and spent the last couple of months reading, researching and looking into the contributions women have made in design. As I went through my study notes for the history of design module, I found that I actually did not study much about the works of female designers, a lot of the pioneering leaders of global design movements mentioned in the syllabus all seemed to be men. Where were the women? Women have had a lasting impact and contribution to the design industry. From Aino Alto to Charlotte Perriand. From Zaha Hadid to India Mahdavi, women have put in the work. It has not been easy for women to rise up the ranks and make ourselves known in this industry. In fact, it is still not easy for women in the design world. Historically speaking the contribution women have made in design, art and architecture have always been underrepresented or completely ignored. If we dig a little deep, we will find that history tells us amazingly beautiful stories of female creatives, tales of their talents, ingenuity and success. We women have had an immense impact on shaping and designing our world. And we should all be celebrated. And a celebration of women’s creativity and expertise should not be for one day a year, it should be happening every time a talented woman does work worthy of showcasing. And most definitely should not just be celebrated to check a diversity tickbox, or as a PR stunt. Women in design should be celebrated for our contribution to design. That is it. Not in comparison to men, not in comparison to other women. Just be celebrated for our individual talent and expertise without any comparison. So I have made the intention to write more articles celebrating all things women in design, alongside my regular content. And as I mentioned, as a British Indian Muslim woman, I will be focusing on these demographic groups but this blog will celebrate all women in design. So I hope we all enjoy this new journey that we are embarking on here at the Style & Form blog!

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