The European Academy of Design conference is an important and worthwhile meeting point for design and research practitioners from across Europe, and around the world. When we come to EAD, we gather to discuss our work, ideas, and future plans. We drink together. We laugh together. We value our time together.
EAD is built on and by a vibrant and diverse community. But we have noticed that the five keynote speakers for this year’s conference do not reflect the diversity or the intersectional identities of our community.
We, the undersigned—many of whom are contributors to EAD12 and designers from across Europe—find the lack of diversity of this year’s keynote speakers unacceptable. In 2017, at a large European conference, we would expect to see keynote speakers who reflect the demographic diversity of our community. We would expect attentiveness to citizenship, class, race, sexual orientation, sex, ability, and gender identity. The additional barriers and challenges ordinarily faced by practitioners who are not male, white and able should not be perpetuated here, however unintentionally, through lack of foresight when appointing keynote speakers.
For example, women bring excellent contributions to many aspects of design, but rarely enjoy the same visibility as men. It is a common occurrence that when projects are conducted in teams, more credit is given to male colleagues (eg Sarsons 2015). Despite how well represented women are in the design student population and at entry-level positions in academia, disproportionately few go on to get hired or elected in high-level or managerial positions. The scientific committee of EAD is a good example of this: only two of nine members are women (http://www.designfornext.org/people.html).
Many of us, the undersigned, are students, early career academics, and early career designers. When we go to conferences like this, we do so because we are interested in the future of our discipline and the roles we might play in shaping it. It is vital that we see possible trajectories for our careers emulated at all levels of the profession. We therefore implore you to consider: what message does the current, all-male panel of keynote speakers send to young academics and designers?
We know that this issue is systemic and in no way unique to EAD. However, design research, and in particular, a conference dedicated to exploring next directions for the design community, should be in the vanguard of equal working practice. Conferences that happen once every two years should be a good indicator of how we, as a design community, are trying to innovate by proposing better ways of doing design. What is the path that is laid out ahead of us, if not towards being, one day, a keynote speaker at a well-regarded academic conference?
Lastly, we would like to respectfully request that you reconsider the keynote speakers for EAD12. If possible, we would like to see at least one more added who reflects the vibrant and diverse EAD community-—the community who has made an effort to contribute to, attend, and support Design for Next and EAD. For a longer term impact, we respectfully request that EAD ensures diversity and gender equality is represented in future conferences, on EAD’s Scientific Committee, and more broadly within the organisation.
References Sarsons, H., 2015. Gender differences in recognition for group work (No. 254946).