Last week I read an article about dads being "stuck at home" during the pandemic, which reminded me of one of my past research projects. It was favorite project of mine. (Are you allowed to have favorite research projects? Or is it like having a favorite child?)
These are the questions which spawned the research:
Are you a woman? Are you a lighting designer? Are you a mother? Have you ever noticed women leaving the design profession after becoming mothers? Are they actually leaving? If so, why? Are they quitting work altogether, or are they going to work somewhere else? If they are working somewhere else, what makes that other profession more desirable than lighting design? What can we do to make lighting design a good place for women who are also mothers?
Flexibility is one of the top requests from these employees, and now that we have all tried a work-from-home model, maybe that flexibility will be easier to achieve in the future.
In 2018, Emily Klingensmith and I created a first-of-its-kind survey of U.S.-based women in lighting design (and women who were formerly lighting designers) to find the answers to these questions and more. Thanks to great participation by women in the industry, along with great support by WILD and IALD, the survey received over 430 responses.
The survey attempted to answer difficult questions which don't have easy answers, but some of the survey results show trends which may give us clues to retaining mothers in the profession. Mental load - taking the lead on most household responsibilities and almost all parenting tasks leaves less time for mothers in lighting design to commit to work deadlines, overtime, trips, and after-hours aiming sessions. Flexibility is one of the top requests from these employees, and now that we have all tried a work-from-home model, maybe that flexibility will be easier to achieve in the future.
This is something all employers should care about. The answers to this anonymous survey were insightful, poignant, and sometimes raw. See the complete survey results here, and stay tuned for the next time Emily and Lisa present the results in person.
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Lisa J. Reed, lighting designer and Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC