Sometimes among all the crochet-ness that fills my days I do reflect on my past career as a web designer and a female one at that.
I still do web design of course, these things are built in to you but I no longer work in an office and I don't imagine I will ever work in an office again, especially now I run my own business. I am not sure if that has become a choice or a fact but it got me to thinking about the life span of a female web designer.
The first question I ask you is "would you hire a middle-aged mother for a web design position?" probably not, not that has any reflection of my skill set and I haven't quite reached middle-age yet but it did lead me to believe that being a female web designer is a little like being a model. Although not related to your looks it does seem to have it's own life span and once you hit a certain age, you need to think of something else.
The thing about the web design industry, I have found, is that it is very difficult to progress up a ladder to managerial. Firstly the most you would get is to be a creative director but when you are not competing with outsiders for the position, which seems the norm these days, you will be fighting against the mass of male web gurus that you already work with. In my whole career history as a web designer, the only women I actually worked with were in the stereotypical positions of sales, admin or if I was lucky, content managers but apart from one female developer I never worked alongside a single woman in my own career history. A real shame and I never really understood why because being a web designer is a very creative role and woman are good at being creative right?
In the early days of my career I of course enjoyed the advantage this gave me, I would often hear that I was hired for the novelty of having a woman (hmmmm.... of course I am hoping my skills had something to do with it as well) but then I did start at the beginning of the internet boom back in the 90's, really by default as I studied to do graphic design, where you will find a few more women, but my interest in code and computers led me down the web route and most women don't like to code, not all of course and I love meeting a fellow female web designer/developer but the sad fact is most women don't go in for coding, or science and maths in general. That's a man's job! No, it is not, it's a subject.
I think these days things may be different and ratios of men to women web designers may be different especially in larger organisations but most of us will be working in small independent companies and ones full of men. On one occasion I really had to draw the line against working in a 99% male environment for an engineering company, and one that was in the middle of nowhere. My social aspects were certainly going to be limited.
Even so, I had no problem working alongside men most of the time, I do love my geeks as a geekette but as time went on I did discover that more young people were being hired, the design portfolio types straight out from design agencies that now were everywhere, and they were boys, can't really call them men, and boy's who could talk the talk. I was beginning to feel old and my only chance of progressing in my own career was to move companies, the problem with this was my original advantage of just being female was now a problem. Employers would look at you and start wondering if you would leave after five minutes to go and have children, heaven forbid I had any already. Of course this applies to all women in any career but the problem I faced was my competition. These young lads with their enthusiasm and amazing portfolios they all had time to create (as they looked for jobs) was winning the day and my ten year plus work experience really didn't matter and of course my lack of a fancy design portfolio, because I was actually doing a job, wasn't helping.
I was also tired of being ignored. What does a woman know? Younger, less experienced designers were often listened to a lot more than I was. Of course I hate to use the sexism card but this is a sad truth in some companies. In one position I was supposed to be a senior designer who would look after the team whilst the team manager was out, one day he was and the junior designer (yes a young lad) was messing around. Now I'm not one for spoiling the fun but it was annoying me when we had so much work to do so I asked a simple question of how the project was coming along. His reply? well it basically consisted of 'f*ck off'.
So the time came to leave and probably never go back. That was my last job and now after 5 years of doing my own thing I am probably past it and past caring. Maybe I just lost my passion for the office life and I felt my entrepreneurial spirit and skill set would be put to better use doing my own thing. They do say that why spend your life making someone else rich when you can do it for yourself right? even more so when no-one seems to want to listen to you but I do hope that things will change within the web industry for women and that more women will come into the web design and developing industry and show those men a thing or two and that being a web designer doesn't need to have a life span as a career choice. That we can lead teams and we may actually know what we are talking about!