The Women in Lighting project was launched on 8 March 2019, in celebration of International Women’s Day. The idea for the project was born well before that! Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton from the Light Collective in the UK were busy working away and took notice of the gender imbalance within the lighting design profession.
As Martin mentioned in one of their discussions, “We started the Women in Lighting project based on a mistake we made during The Perfect Light film. We interviewed four women and 19 men. We then realised that this is not representative of the industry, and we should have exercised balance. Our initial research showed that, despite there being approximately 50% female designers in lighting design globally, they are not equally represented on committees, juries, curatorial panels and as speakers and keynotes at conferences. It was at that moment, we knew that should change.”
The main goal of the project is to celebrate women in the lighting industry and to provide an inspirational platform for women to promote their passion and achievements, narrate their career path and goals, celebrate their work, and elevate their profile in the lighting community. It is not about gender inequality but about inclusivity, and how this is beneficial to the profession as a whole.
Since Women in Lighting’s inception just over a year ago, the project has gained incredible attention and support around the globe. With the network of female lighting designers acting as national ambassadors in more than 70 countries, there have been numerous local events, project meetings, articles in the media, marketing campaigns and collaborations with other like-minded organisations.
“Women in Lighting’s vision is to increase inclusivity to the benefit of the profession.”
The project’s primary goal is to increase the profile of successful women working in lighting to help encourage, support and inspire the next generation. The Women in Lighting website (womeninlighting.com) features a collection of interviews with women in lighting design. Another program is mentoring to support younger women entering the industry.
Local Focus on a Global Initiative
The strength of the Women in Lighting project is creating a global movement supported through activities within local communities. Despite our cosmopolitan lifestyle, every region, country and even city may have a different focus and set of needs that can be better addressed by activity and implementation on a local level. Yet the overarching global organisation and networks provide a sense of belonging to a truly international movement.
In Australia, there are currently two active groups — Melbourne and Sydney. During the inaugural year, each city held multiple events to celebrate and highlight women’s role in the industry. In Melbourne, we gathered to listen to several women present. After the presentations, a group workshop identified specific needs within the local industry and outlined the localised strategy and direction for the group. Our Sydney team worked in collaboration with WIDAC (Women in Design and Construction) hosting a lighting workshop for women in the design and construction industries. The Sydney team also organised tours of completed projects to share the experience of the work process and celebrate the successful outcomes. These are just a few examples of initiatives to highlight the achievements of women in lighting, to build a community, to share and to inspire.
Reflecting on local experience, I whole-heartedly agree with Sharon and Martin that the Women in Lighting project is an initiative to strengthen our lighting community. Our profession needs to be more connected and supported as we face work challenges and embrace the rapid development of technology. It is also encouraging to have men taking an active role in supporting their female colleagues. Men, as well as women, have well attended our local events, and we can see a similar trend globally.
Where is Focus Most Needed?
Something the project organisers have observed since the launch of Women in Lighting is the need for support and mentoring. Through personal interviews with members, it has become apparent that women need more encouragement to step up. One of the significant challenges women have identified is a lack of professional confidence. They are less likely than men to discuss their achievements and promote their successes. But we have found that women are far more likely to support others in the lighting industry and offer mentoring to become a positive role model for other women. The Women in Lighting platform has capitalised on this inclination and thus amplifies mentoring opportunities and support networks.
Women in Lighting focuses on positive and inclusive strategies. Yet, the project needs to recognise and address many underlying perceptions about women’s role within our industry. How best do we increase women’s representation in leadership roles, directorships and committees? Which countries and programs best support women with children to continue to participate in the workforce in a meaningful way? Why is lack of self-esteem so common, and is it possible to increase confidence through external validation? All of these are critical areas, and if addressed professionally and collaboratively, will bring about a considerable change to our industry as a whole.
How Being an Ambassador has Changed My Perspective
Being an Ambassador for Women in Lighting has opened my eyes to many issues of which I had not been consciously aware. As a representative of this global initiative, I have reflected on my choices and influences along my journey. Broadening my networks has connected me with so many inspiring female designers.
I am asking many more questions and challenging outcomes. It has also been an incredible learning experience both within the local industry and around the world.
Moving forward, Women in Lighting seeks to embrace the individual qualities and talents of our global network and to crystallise the essence of the most important values for each region. Projects such as Women in Lighting summons us to reflect upon our career goals and challenges that have been constrained by societal norms and paradigms. It is empowering to define a pathway with support systems in place to send us forward with confidence.