Cross-Industry Leaders Illuminate Actionable Methods to Champion Women through Design At IA Collaborative, our mission is to design the future of human experience. With a female Co-Founder and Co-CEO, and a proudly 50% female leadership team, we launched a Design for Women capability to illuminate and address the unmet needs of women \u2013 and anyone who identifies with the female gender \u2013 through design. Our teams apply IA\u2019s expertise in human-centered design methodologies and integrated business strategy to define and prototype new products and services, and organizational missions and programs, to champion women. The IA Collaborative Design for Women Roundtable Series themed \u201cIlluminate + Act,\u201d convened 25+ innovation and business leaders across industries including technology, healthcare, consumer products, financial services and insurance representing companies such as Airbnb, Johnson & Johnson, Google, USAA, and more, to explore challenges and bright spots to champion designing for women, for the benefit of all. Women\u2019s issues are systemic, and intersect with and impact the shared experiences of all genders, and all people. By bringing together this impressive group of leaders, we gained insights to make impact in our organizations, and through our design work \u2013 whether it be builds to our process, or the mindsets we use when developing new products and solutions. -Katie Schlott, Partner, IA Collaborative Taking Action: Key Themes Below are key themes from our action-focused conversations with these leaders. They reveal how we can take action within our own organizations and spheres of influence, and collaborate to magnify our impact. KEY THEME #1: Equity must be a collaboration, not a competition. We should openly share insights, resources, tools and strategies. We discussed the collective impact we could have if we openly shared and democratized our efforts, and reached out to our competitors as allies. We\u2019ve seen this approach with other pressing challenges facing humanity, including environmental sustainability, where corporate competitors like Coke and Pepsi commit to achieving a shared goal. Imagine if we more openly shared the equitable design tools and resources we\u2019re developing at our own organizations. What if we made internal surveys, or key behavioral insights from research projects open-sourced? Another avenue for shared progress is aligning with like-minded partners \u2013 who have complementary expertise \u2013 to design equitable solutions. For example, to support women returning to work, IA Collaborative facilitated a collaboration between brands Medela, Mamava and Milkstork to improve a returning mother\u2019s experience in the workplace. Together, these partners launched the New Moms\u2019 Healthy Returns program to deliver equipment, advocacy and tools for breastfeeding women and the employers who support them -- and they did so by leveraging each other\u2019s strengths and capabilities to make a deeper and greater impact than one company could have done alone. Bottom line: Democratizing tools and resources \u2013 and collaborating across company lines \u2013 will better solve systemic design challenges and create more impactful, scalable solutions. KEY THEME #2: Open the scope \u2014 rethink your \u201ctarget audience.\u201d The groups discussed the inherent defaults we currently design for and within when creating products and services. For some, particularly in the financial industry, it is men; and for others, it\u2019s limiting the female target audience to \u201cyoung women\u201d 18-30. Too often, other gender constructs, races, age groups and ethnicities are left out when companies prioritize what to design and launch next. The roots of these \u201cdefault\u201d design decisions run deep, and even the most well-meaning teams can overlook them. Addressing them means proactively building in \u201cbias-checks'' in the design process, to address whether your existing designs or services subtly confirm the default. Mary Quandt, Director of Experience Strategy at Johnson & Johnson, shared a powerful tool teams use to proactively expand their thinking on \u201cwho\u201d a product or service should be designed for. They\u2019ve reframed their creative brief to include a diversity lens and began using \u201cstretch personas\u201d that consider a variety of different perspectives, backgrounds, and needs, which leads to more inclusive design decisions. Challenging the default can include micro-design decisions\u2014for example the male-wallet icon in an e-shopping experience\u2014a subtle statement about who controls finances. It can also include rethinking UX journeys. Alissa Umansky, Senior Director, Product Design at The Knot, works to prevent bias and assumption in wedding planning. To avoid making gender-based assumptions in our experience, such as around attire suggestions, we do not ask users to identify as a bride or groom. Instead, we focus on building products that empower every user and every couple, no matter who they are, to plan the wedding that\u2019s right for them. -Alissa Umansky, Senior Director, Product Design at The Knot Beyond designing for women \u2013 new product categories and marketing strategies should address a spectrum of genders and other intersectionalities. And it all starts with rethinking the target audience. Bottom line: Proactively build in moments in your process \u2013 whether it\u2019s initial ideation or design and prototyping \u2013 to challenge who your target audience is and what they need. KEY THEME #3: Business Prototype \u201cmicro-sprints\u201d are a powerful tool to gain Leadership buy-in. To break through people\u2019s default assumptions and expectations, take baby steps. Experiment. Do a quick research sprint just to gain shared understanding among the leadership team. It\u2019s a great equalizer...customers might kill our assumptions, and that\u2019s great! -Liz Trudeau, SVP of Strategic Design, Wells Fargo We discussed how many times, big change can take place one small experiment at a time. Gender equity is a systemic issue, and sometimes we let the massive scale of those challenges hinder the effort. However, there are already elements inherent to design thinking and agile development that we can incorporate into our projects to impact women. We can conduct iterative, business prototype sprints to gain early user behavioral insights, metrics, and ROI that can open the door to more funding and successful conversations with Leadership. In the financial services industry, low-fidelity research on female investor mindsets can disprove assumptions about investment decisions. In healthcare, a quick \u201cbusiness prototype\u201d of a new service offering, led by IA Collaborative, quickly reversed assumptions business leaders had about user preferences and adoption. And don\u2019t forget internal prototypes, and through them a deeper understanding of employees behaviors and needs. Gaining an understanding of what actions and policies drive real behavior change and thus, real equity, are powerful tools towards progress. Bottom line: Start by starting. Gain behavioral insights to demonstrate value and inspire action within your organization. Design for Women: What You Can Do Next We all struggle with what is urgent, and what is important. The hardest thing of change at scale is the change, and then the orchestration of the change. -Hector Ouilhet, Head of Human Centered Innovation & Strategy at Google The \u201cIlluminate + Act\u201d Design for Women roundtable series brought together incredible leaders across industries to share resources and illuminate areas of opportunity for equitable design. But most importantly, it inspired us to take action on those resources and opportunities. At IA, we\u2019re applying these learnings and a design innovation mindset to continue solving equity challenges. We work with business leaders to rethink the role of design in every corner of their organization to design a better future for women, that will benefit all. We can create a world where designing for women is synonymous with \u201cdesigning\u201d - whether that be internal processes and tools to support women during their journey within your company, or expand your products and offerings to include women\u2019s needs at the center. Do you need support on an upcoming initiative to support women? Are you interested in being a part of a network of design + business leaders uncovering opportunities and sharing resources to design for women? Join our network and send a direct message to firstname.lastname@example.org.