Who defines what’s innovative? Design processes have historically been blinded by biases of gender, ability, ethnicity, and so on—but these biases have an undeniable and sweeping impact in holding innovation and technological progress back.
Today women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions, yet 90% of all products and services are designed by men, for men. For instance, the vast majority of medical research is based on studies of men and car crash dummies are largely designed based on the male anatomy. This systematically builds a world that ignores half the population and impacts critical aspects of everyday life for our people.
This gender bias holds true not just in designing for innovation, but also in the stories we tell about innovation, where women as well as a diverse array of identities have been underrepresented or entirely kept out. Rushali Paratey, a Creative Technologist at MediaMonks, puts it succinctly: “The perspective and experiences of all kinds of people is crucial to innovation and design as they reflect the totality of the human experience.”
Embracing Diversity in Storytelling
We believe in narrowing and closing these gaps in gender and diversity—we are not only putting women in positions to impact and drive effective innovation in our industry; we’ve also worked to build inclusivity beyond the standard roster to tip the scales when it comes to how women are represented in the narratives we propagate about innovation. If you want to see this in action, just look at this year’s Super Bowl. Among more than 60 commercials, we showed up with one of only three female-directed spots. It’s a staggering (but not surprising) ratio—and is emblematic of the need for more women’s voices.
The perspective and experiences of all kinds of people is crucial to innovation and design as they reflect the totality of the human experience.
Realizing this, Beryl Chung, a Creative Director based in Amsterdam, drives WoMMen in Tech, a platform that publishes a publicly accessible video and podcast series to make the expertise, drivers and ambitions of women in the predominantly male digital media industry more visible and available to all. And as Beryl exemplifies with this initiative, there’s an incredible amount of conversations necessary at all levels in our industry, and the world in general, about the incredible amounts of intersectionalities that exist.
Designing for Everyone
Both history and the present abound with examples of products and services designed with a biased lens that are poorly suited for diverse audiences. While no one today thinks twice about the need for accessibility options in physical public spaces, accessibility is more often than not an afterthought in digital—despite growing laws and regulations in digital accessibility. Yet without including diverse voices in the design process, it’s easy to delay much-needed innovation and problem-solving.
It starts with systematically understanding, considering and applying forethought. As Anna Herr, a Creative Tech intern at MediaMonks, says, “It’s about getting women into tech in the first place. From a young age, women are looked down upon or are discouraged from exploring tech-related fields. We need to give girls access to tech-related courses, unbiased support and visible female role models for a career in tech.”
When we create ways to personalize communication and to connect with audiences that are more diverse and inclusive, we enable a larger part of the population to share their voices, transforming the experience for everyone—especially in industries that are plagued with biases. Nora Henriksson, Managing Director of MediaMonks Stockholm, applies this mindset when bridging the gap between modern marketing and sports—including projects focused on growing women’s sports.
“This is an area where there’s so much untapped potential, but it’s also about building a better foundation for young girls to continue playing when they become teenagers, for them to be able to dream about being professional athletes,” she says. “By communicating around women’s sports in an interesting way in digital channels, the community can also break free from being measured only by broadcast numbers and stadium visitors. There are new ways to connect with the fans and by that create growth. Sports has so many interesting stories and it ought to be an inclusive experience.”
Diversity is a key component to the work we do. And it starts with creating teams with different perspectives capable of reaching diverse audiences. Meike Overdijk, who recently joined us as a Creative Tech intern, reiterates the importance of diverse teams as “having the ability to perform better because the number of different backgrounds (and therefore opinions) bring more diverse solutions and promote critical thinking. I think that making sure a team has diverse members should be the standard since this leads to better results in the end.”
To support this, it is vital to establish leadership that nurtures a culture of diverse viewpoints—and ensures team members feel comfortable and supported in sharing those perspectives with their peers and colleagues. A formal initiative we kicked off this month is our Women in Leadership program, offering mentorship opportunities to both established and up-and-coming women leaders across S4.
We steadfastly believe that diversity is one of the keys to unlocking innovation and that better-informed and less-biased innovation and storytelling doesn’t need reinventing the wheel. Writing these intersectionalities back into the process of designing and innovating for the world, and the stories we tell about innovation shifts the ground we stand on as a new way emerges.
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