Ladies that UX: A Community for Women in Design
Ladies that UX is reshaping the conversation about women in design and tech. Read more about how they are smashing barriers.
The year was 2013, and Lizzie Dyson was fresh out of University and attending meet-ups in Manchester to meet other designers and like-minded UX people. While networking at events often feels a little awkward, like a high school dance, Lizzie vividly remembers one specific event being especially nerve-wracking.
Simply put, this tech meet-up wasn't relaxed in the slightest. Instead, it was tense and difficult to get any social interaction going. Lizzie left this stuffy gathering to grab a glass of wine with her close friend Georgie Bottomley so they could both unwind and vent on the nature of these groups.
It became clear to Lizzie and Georgie that two fundamental things were missing from these meet-ups: a relaxed laid back atmosphere and, most noticeably, women.
It was a direct reflection on the UX, tech, and design industry at the time. There were few women in the mid-level and senior roles, and there were nearly no role models for those looking to break these glass ceilings.
Lizzie and Georgie realized that something needed to be done, and they had a plan to address this glaring issue.
A Space for Women in UX Design
This realization was a huge step forward for Lizzie and Georgie. Here's how Lizzie described this "aha!" moment in her own words:
"It would be nice to create a relaxed environment where you could turn to the person next to you, get to know them, and ask them about their experiences. Georgie also noticed there weren’t there any women coming along. These two comments lead us down the path of creating Ladies that UX: a welcoming, transparent community of women that work in UX."
Georgie was deeply inspired, too. She knew that they were on to something and that a special idea was brewing between them, "then Lizzie and I got talking that fateful night in 2013 I realised that I have always loved meeting people and bringing people together."
The wheels had set in motion, and Lizzie and Georgie were ready to hit the ground running.
The Early Days of Ladies that UX
A quick browse of the Ladies that UX website shows that this is no small endeavor. Rather, it is a community that spreads across multiple countries, with chapters popping up in cities across the world.
Before this major scaling up, however, the early days were the definition of humble beginnings.
The first events were grassroots meet-ups of around 8-12 like-minded women eager to learn more about design. But even calling them events is not entirely accurate, as they were a once-a-month intimate dinner party for those interested in learning about design.
These small gatherings started gaining an audience, and more women started noticing the power this group was building through mutual support and collaboration. Nearly ten years later, Ladies that UX is still growing and continues to build steam.
Ladies that UX Across the World
From small dinners of 15 or fewer to chapters in well over 15 countries, the community is growing in leaps and bounds. Here's a shortened list of where Ladies that UX is sprouting up across the world:
- 4 Chapters in Asia
- 3 Chapters in Australia
- 25 Chapters in North America
- 25 Chapters in Latin America
- 22 Chapters in Europe
And this is still just the start! More chapters are becoming sponsored, and more groups are planting their design seeds in new areas.
While the conversation about women solving complex problems and creating incredible solutions has largely been silenced in most parts of the world, Ladies that UX is shining a light on the major contributions women continue to have in tech and design.
None of this would be possible, of course, without the tremendous contributions made by the individuals who are constantly working to build up Ladies that UX to empower women designers around the world.
The Ladies that UX Team
Lizzie and Georgie knew that to turn these meet-ups into a true movement, they would need a squad of changers and shakers ready to transform the way women in UX are viewed in the industry.
Now, with 7 years of hard work in the books and an evolving design landscape, the Ladies that UX crew is a literal cast of tech all-stars. Here are a few of the key players who are helping shape the Ladies that UX program.
Kavitha Krishnan - UX Leader, Talk UX Director
Kavitha is relentless when it comes to creating solutions and solving problems. It's visible in her work, as well as in her drive to foster women in the industry and those who are looking to join it.
We asked her how she can apply her tenacious problem solving into supporting women in UX, "The ideas I am about to suggest may sound simple, but I have found them to be very helpful: Provide real-life help and encouragement - I set a goal to focus on the success/growth of women on my team and/or Ladies that UX members. I provide encouragement and real-life help. Amplification/Celebrate accomplishments - Like everyone else, women work really hard to succeed, so it is important to give them credit for their contribution."
These sensible approaches make Kavitha such a successful leader and champion of women's advancement.
Tereza Alux - Product Designer, Global Director for Ladies that UX
As the Global Director for Ladies that UX, Tereza knows that there needs to be substantial support and encouragement for women to succeed. Here's how she phrased it in her own words, "We don't need to be alone or see each other as competitors. We are gradually creating a powerful network of mutual support and encouragement... I believe that not only in the area of UX but in all areas of work, for all women."
In addition to the network and community building, Tereza is laser-focused on breaking harmful paradigms that have afflicted women. Stereotypes like "women don't work well together and aren't interested in technology" are misguided perceptions that she continues to smash daily.
"There are many incredible women who support and encourage each other, who give opportunities to each other, who protect and have empathy for each other. My goal is to show more and more that this exists and is real."
Vania Teofilo - UX Strategist, LATAM Director for Ladies that UX
Based in São Paulo, Brazil, Vania spearheads the Ladies that UX mission throughout Latin America. With the incredible amount of diversity that can be found in each country and community, Vania discovered a common theme amongst all LATAM women in the world of UX:
"The Latin American ladies have common needs and desires, regardless of the culture, language, or origin country. We can say support and exchange are the most wanted stuff in our community. The support for professional development through both soft and hard skills, and the exchange of personal and professional experiences."
More than just promoting UX for women in Latin America, Vania is an agent of change that looks to fundamentally reshape the definition of a fair society. This includes taking on challenging endeavors like working for equal pay and a better quality of life for women in the industry.
Mariana Ozaki - UX Strategist, EMEA Director at Ladies that UX
Like many people who enter important leadership roles, Mariana felt the pressures of imposter syndrome when she opened up the Ladies that UX chapter in Milan. Despite not being a native Italian and an introvert, Mariana quickly stepped up and solidified herself as a bonafide leader.
Overcoming her initial jitters, Mariana set her sights on creating a specific type Ladies that UX chapter, "From the beginning, I had a clear idea of how the chapter of Milan would be like: friendly, open to discussions, a safe space where women could share their experience and thoughts on navigating through the UX world."
Mariana continues to be instrumental in building the global network of women supporting and uplifting each other. All of this done with an empathetic touch, and in an environment that is inclusive for all member regardless of background and experience.
A Push for Equality Within UX
Shifting a paradigm and changing deeply rooted stereotypes is no easy task, but that hasn't and won't stop Ladies that UX from tackling this challenge head-on. With an incredible team and a welcoming brand identity, there's no doubt that this incredible initiative will continue to make tremendous progress in the fight for equality and representation.