A community of women in UX provides an ideal platform to hack the tech gender gap
Photo: Donna Todd
IT’S NO SECRET there has long been a male-dominated imbalance in the tech sector, creating challenges and barriers for others to find their place and opportunities within the industry. So, it seems only natural that professionals tasked with creating ideal user experiences would be the right group to focus on narrowing the gap and creating space for diverse perspectives to thrive.
Donna Todd, UX designer-global analysis at Diebold Nixdorf’s London office, has an extensive background in visual design, and says her curiosity and passion for people led her to the field of user experience design.
“I love my job because it’s about people — how they behave and communicate. It’s about listening to the needs of the people who use or are affected by our products. I then get the chance to recommend how to improve those products to be more user-friendly and intuitive tools, so people can be more effective and efficient in their daily tasks.”
“There are so many opinions floating around about the best way to approach engaging more perspectives in tech. But that’s what UX is. We’re dealing with humans, and humans are messy. We’re all just trying to understand each other.” —Donna Todd
Todd also leads the four-year-old London chapter of Ladies that UX (LTUX), a non-profit, all-volunteer group that hosts monthly networking events, presentations and professional development workshops to encourage community members interested in UX, design and tech to sharpen their skills alongside seasoned industry leaders.
Rallying for an equitable tech community has yielded the organization 800 members on Meetup.com, and LTUX often sees a sampling of developers, product managers, project managers and other professionals in attendance at their events. “UX principles can be applied to any industry, even though our events focus on digital products,” says Todd.
It’s always a dance to gather people from a variety of different backgrounds and provide meaningful experiences, but as Todd notes, that is what UX is all about. “It’s a big concept. We all live through experiences, and as a designer I have to step back from my own experiences and biases and empathize with other people.”
When it comes to the gender gap in tech spaces, Todd says it takes more than women alone to advocate for space and opportunity. “On one hand, we have to recognize that tech is incredibly male-dominated,” she states. “But we do have to navigate the industries and find allies within the groups we work with in order to empower women to feel more comfortable coming into technology. We need those diverse voices, as well as those who can elevate them.
“In the current tech climate, we’ve seen that when women are invited to groups that aren’t targeted to them, they may be the only woman to show up. That can be isolating.”
At the end of the day, because the whole premise of user experience design is diversity and inclusion, Todd’s approach favours the practical. “You can’t design tools, products and experiences for just one group of people, and you won’t know the needs of others unless you put the focus on their experiences, goals and perspectives to contribute.”
What is particularly valuable about Ladies that UX, says Todd, is that by aligning their events with education, communication, engagement and involvement, everyone gets something out of the time they spend. And because of that focus, the feedback has been extremely positive from all demographics.
“There are so many opinions floating around about the best way to approach engaging more perspectives in tech. But that’s what UX is. We’re dealing with humans, and humans are messy. We’re all just trying to understand each other.”
Interested in engaging with your peers in the technology sector? Check out the events calendar techalliance.ca for upcoming events and experiences.