While there are so many incredible creative women out there doing innovative things in the world of design, the field is still a very male-dominated space. While 51% of visual artists today are women, those working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men. Even worse? Work by female artists makes up under five percent of major permanent museum collections in the U.S. and Europe. Clearly, this is one glass ceiling that is still very much intact.
Yet that doesn't mean women aren't going to stop chipping away. Jessica Walsh, a designer and art director working as a partner at NYC-based design firm Sagmeister & Walsh, recognized that it wouldn't be possible to beat the system alone. So she decided to gather a community of creative ladies to discuss the problems with the art world, chat collaborations to create more work for women, and drink wine (because... wine).
In the past few years, Ladies, Wine & Design has grown into a movement with meet-ups all around the globe. We chatted with Walsh about the design world and why we need collaboration and empowerment to finally achieve gender equality.
Lonny: What inspired you to start Ladies, Wine, and Design?
Jessica Walsh: Ladies, Wine & Design started over two-and-a-half years ago, after realizing that sometimes women can be competitive with one another or don’t want other women to succeed. I myself started getting a lot of negative comments on social media directed at me from other women, and I started to wonder why this was happening. I wrote a longer article 12 Kinds of Kindness, if you want to read the full story.
Depending on the country you live in, only 5 to 12% of women hold creative director or CEO positions. I think sometimes women can be competitive with one another because we know our chances of success or obtaining leadership roles are so much slimmer than our male counterparts.
Why do we need spaces for female collaboration (and just conversation!) in the art world?
JW: Now more than ever with the current political climate; with hate, sexism, and racism on the rise, we need to come together and support one each other. Women need to work together to foster healthy and positive connections, dialogues and help empower one another. If we're sexist even towards other women ourselves, how can we expect anything to change?
That was the idea behind holding free mentorship circles, portfolio reviews, talks ,and creative discussions for women on topics relating to creativity, business, getting paid, leadership, and life around the world. These events bring women together, who often go on to work and collaborate with each other.
Did you plan on having the community become international?
JW: That was not the intention. It started small out of my apartment in NYC and never imagined it would be any larger than that. After I launched the initiative on social media, other women started reaching out to me wanting to start chapters in their own cities.
We’re now in over 200 countries and growing each month. You can join by going to our newly launched website, selecting your city, and getting in contact with your local group. If LWD is not in your city, email us if you want to be a chapter leader and start your local chapter! Many of the chapter leaders have told us how running the events have changed their lives, and propelled their careers forward, giving them respect and authority in their local cities, and opening up their creative network.
What has it been like to see its growth? Have you learned of any new collaborations coming out of these events?
JW: It’s been amazing to see what can happen when women come together. The stories that have come out of LWD have been so inspiring. We’ve heard stories of women who have met through the events have gone on to form studios together, come up with product ideas together, or helped one another find jobs. Ladies have told us how our events have inspired them to confront their boss who was sexist or inspired them to leave their toxic work environments to pursue their true passions. We're excited to continue to grow our community and have big ambitions for future events and to give back in other ways.
How do you hope Ladies, Wine, and Design will make an impact on the art community?
JW: In addition to the gap in male/female ratio, there is also a diversity gap in design. It's been a long-term goal of mine to extend the network to high school girls from underprivileged communities or minorities who have an interested in creativity. We’re starting to work on events focused on inspiring them (without wine) and hope to establish a mentorship network through LWD. I know when I was young I was encouraged out of creative fields by my advisors and college admissions staff. They all told me I wouldn't make money going into the arts. I want to show young girls the possibilities of where you can go and what you can do. I also want them to see that you can have a fulfilling career in creative fields, and get paid to do it!
Is there anything else you would like to share about this project?
JW: It’s important to me to keep these events accessible to all, so we can inspire and empower all creative girls and women, regardless of financial backgrounds. That’s why we have kept all our events for free. We’re currently looking for sponsors, as we’ve been funding this entirely ourselves, so in the meanwhile, we've launched a merch site Sorry I Have No Filter. We hope to use the profits to help fund larger events and give back in other ways.