by Meghna MehtaMar 06, 2020
Women in Office Design (WOD) UK was established in 2018 by Harsha Kotak, an interior designer and writer, as a global networking platform for women in the workplace design industry. The platform aims to support members’ professional development through networking events, mentorship, education and advocacy. With chapters in the UK, USA and Europe and more than 2000 WOD members currently, Women in Office Design has set up on a unique path to bring professionals together from the architecture, interiors and allied design fields.
The establishment of this initiative stemmed from research. According to the UK Design Council in 2018, across the design workforce, only 22 per cent of the workforce comprises women and in architecture that number drops to 17 per cent. Furthermore, there is a significant misrepresentation of women within higher positions in interior design firms, with only 25 per cent of firm leaders being females.
Kotak shares, “My original vision when I launched WOD back in 2018 was to inspire and empower women involved in the profession of office design and creation”. A recent initiative, Power Women of Design (PWD) has been launched as a series of round table discussions organised by WOD in different countries to highlight the work and the status of women in the workplace design industry. The core idea was to highlight the journey and story of women leaders that can further inspire others. The India edition of PWD took place on December 15, 2020, at the Steelcase Centre in Bengaluru, also marking the launch of WOD in India. “It was a fortuitous coincidence that I met Harsha and we started discussions on beginning the WOD India story. That our first event was so well attended and the buzz it has created tells us we are on the right path,” mentions Payal Sandhu Khurana, WOD India Ambassador.
WOD presented this conversation along with some accomplished women leaders in India, who are making waves into the design world. These included Smita Gupta, Sabina Reddy, Devanshi Patel, Payal Sandhu Khurana, Asha Kushalappa, Megha Awasthy, Fancy George, Pallavi Shrivastva and Sumita Sundaram. The panel explored the varied issues faced by women in the design industry and offered insights into the challenges, successes, and their varied journeys. The discussion moderated by Kotak focussed on various issues that women face in the workplace and potential solutions that can bring equality. Each of the speakers shared their experiences and suggested ways to resolve frictions for future generations.
The discussion also raised some important questions – Given the universal nature of design, these statistics are surprising, if not disconcerting. In an industry as creative and inclusive as ours, how can one explain these disparities? More importantly, what do we want our industry to look like in the future and how do we get there?
“It is heartening to see that the inaugural seminar for WOD India Chapter, entitled Power Women of Design (India), has brought us closer to our goal. The women leaders in India that I met and interacted with, have reinforced my view that women across the globe are striving together and challenging stereotypes,” adds Kotak.
WOD also has a digital platform (WOD Digital) that aims to provide an opportunity to women around the world to learn from each other, and support members’ professional development through networking events, mentorship, and education. Many more sessions have been planned to continue the dialogue and offer carefully curated networking and knowledge opportunities for the members as well as the audience.
Khurana concludes, “I believe greatly in the power of women and believe WOD will provide a powerful platform to have conversations that no one has attempted before in our industry. Through these conversations, we aim to create awareness about diversity and inclusion and to encourage and inspire youngsters. It would be a great win if we can effect positive change through these interactions. As the first women’s knowledge and support forum in India, WOD can help every woman find her voice, introspect, find her goals, learn, and spread her wings!”