Double or Nothing Coalition Champions Women Leaders In Design

As demands for gender equity and female empowerment ripple through the broader society, AIGA has launched “Double or Nothing,” an initiative whose goal is to double the number of women leaders in design. Despite graphic design being a primarily female profession — 53.5% according to a recent AIGA/Google study — women hold only an estimated 4% to 11% of leadership positions depending on business sector and particular survey. Timed to coincide with Women’s History Month, the launch features a website that will expand and evolve with resources such as a corporate pledge for gender equity, practical toolkits, career advice and insights, and inspirational stories.

The organizers assert that this is more than an awareness campaign but, rather, a true movement to create tangible impact and forge partnerships between women who want to lead and those committed to helping them do so. Spearheaded by AIGA’s Women Lead Initiative and a coalition that includes Blue State Digital, Decker Design, IBM, Lippincott, Pentagram, and Quartz, the movement plans to confront the persistent biases that exist within the design industry. The Women Lead Initiative was founded in 2014 by Su Mathews Hale and Deborah Adler to address those biases in a consistent way.


Lynda Decker of Decker Design and Co-Chair of the AIGA Women Lead Committee explains: “Once in the workplace, particularly after five to 10 years, there is a lack of mentorship, celebration of female work, support for mothers, and equal pay. At this stage of their career, women often do not feel empowered to negotiate pay and the position they deserve or are reluctant to ask for guidance. We want that to end.” Adds Heather Stern of Lippincott and Women Lead Committee Co-Chair: “This is not just a campaign — it’s a movement to promote continuous and much-needed progress … ‘Double or Nothing’ alludes to the ‘duos’ required to achieve our goal:  pay and promotion, men and women, design and business, aspiring leaders and those who want to support them.”

Pentagram, a lead partner, developed the Double or Nothing creative strategy including name, brand identity, voice and website design. “We’re working to empower women to have a stronger path toward getting what they want and deserve,” said Emily Oberman, who led the team at Pentagram. “To that end, we’re looking for companies to make a public pledge of commitment and to be held accountable for meeting goals. You can bet that savvy designers will be drawn to those companies working to ensure inclusivity and balance.” Blue State Digital, also a lead partner, built the website and lent its proprietary tools to serve as a foundation for communications and engagement. Explaining its participation, Blue State Digital Creative Director Laura Kunkel said: “The awareness and momentum are there — it’s time for our community to design a solution to achieve parity.”

As part of the effort, AIGA national partner IBM will help develop a series of tangible commitments and best practices for companies to adopt in order to accelerate progress for female designers. “IBM has a commitment to diversity and equality in all of our practices and we’re thrilled to be a launch partner with AIGA in this important initiative,” said Doug Powell, Distinguished Designer at IBM and former AIGA national president. IBM was recently recognized as 2018 Catalyst Award winner for its efforts in supporting women in the workplace. And to expand reach and influence, AIGA is also partnering with the online business website Quartz and its How We’ll Win project, a year-long women-led exploration of the fight for gender equality across all industries.

Concludes AIGA executive director Julie Anixter, “Our pledge is to continue to champion women’s leadership, as well as women and men who support diversity and inclusion. Double or Nothing is a great example of not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.”

Photograph by John Madere

Pictured: Front Row L to R: Laetitia Wolff, AIGA; Julie Anixter, AIGA; Lynda Decker, Decker Design; Heather Stern, Lippincott; Emily Oberman, Pentagram
Second Row L to R: Angelica Dios, AIGA; Alex Ording, Code & Pattern; Sarah Corey, Pentagram
Last Row L to R: Matt Varner, Pentagram; Christina Hogan, Pentagram; Elizabeth Goodspeed, Pentagram Not pictured: Laura Kunkle, Blue State Digital