Women in design – Kerning The Gap

Kerning the gap - Rosie the Riveter. Women in design

There’s a problem in the design industry. Did you know that while 63% of design students are women only 17% percent are in creative director or leadership roles? This also has a general impact on pay and across the board, women still earn 20% less than men. Kerning the Gap (KTG) is an equality network that exists to tackle this lack of diversity in top level positions within the design industry.

Infographic from Kerning The Gap about gender inequality within the design industry

Image from Kerning The Gap

Set up by Nat Maher in 2015, KTG is aimed at getting more women into leadership roles within the design industry. It’s a mentorship programme and movement that strives to be completely accessible. It invites every role into the conversation, and also acknowledges that men need to be part of the solution.

As part of Leap’s employee volunteering programme, our Head of Client Services, Helen Johnston has taken time out of her day to offer mentoring as part of the KTG programme.

“In 2021, I was given the opportunity to have some mentoring by the wonderful Jo Ellicot, to support my progression to Head of Client Services at Leap. Going through that experience was surprising in a positive way and so valuable. It made me want to give back and do some mentoring for others.

I’d been aware of Kerning The Gap for several years and Jo had also previously mentored through the KTG programme, so she put me in touch with them and I had an initial conversation with the South West cohort, currently run through Bristol agency Kinneir Dufort.

Initially I joined a couple of training sessions run by KTG and The Conversation space, to understand what was expected of the mentors and mentees, as a mentee-led programme. During one of those sessions several prospective mentors and mentees had the opportunity to meet and chat for a few minutes, a bit like speed dating! Following that session, mentors and mentees were matched up – with the recommendation to meet roughly every 6 weeks over 12 months. I was matched with Charlotte, a designer from Kinneir Dufort. It was down to Charlotte to initiate the meetings and we did meet about every other month for an hour.

It’s a very “human” experience, two people who don’t know each other learning from one another. I had to challenge myself, remembering the training from the sessions with The Conversation Space to make sure I structured the sessions appropriately. To make them as valuable as possible for Charlotte. I kept the key points about the mentee-led approach front of mind and made notes during each session to recall when we next met.

The experience reinforced my views and values but the absolute importance of really listening, not jumping to conclusions or making unfounded assumptions. And that you can learn from everyone around you no matter their role or level of experience.

I feel privileged to be encouraged to take time to spend on personal passions that are rewarding. Taking time away from the day-to-day is a healthy mind break, the volunteering experiences are often humbling and puts a lot of things into perspective. I think, generally, it leaves the team feeling more fulfilled – thus happier in our roles at Leap.

Charlotte’s kind words after our last session made me feel both empowered and valued. It was quite emotional as the year came to an end, but we’ll definitely stay in touch. And I have signed up to continue mentoring with a different mentee in the coming year – can’t wait!”


If you would like to read about staff volunteering and the amazing work and experiences from other members of the team, check out these stories:

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