WomanUp: our new leadership initiative

Women control nearly 80% of consumer spending, yet only 3% of creative directors of female. At AIGA Cincinnati, we decided it was time to talk about why. In a recent consumer survey, 90% of women felt that brands just didn’t understand them. Why is that? Anyone in the creative industry knows that the more diverse your team is, the more diverse their ideas will be. But when it comes to actually implementing, it seems that the design, marketing, advertising, and tech industries are struggling. Why aren’t women reaching top leadership positions in these innovative fields? This weekend we got together to talk about why.

On Saturday, July 25, we hosted our first WomanUp event, a casual coffee and discussion meet up at Coffee Emporium in OTR. We were hoping to start the conversation around a tough topic, while building professional relationships with other women and a strong network of support. We wanted to empower one another and encourage each other to ‘WomanUp’ and take on the challenge. We did just that.


Twenty two women in Cincinnati in various fields (web developers, social media marketers, graphic designers and everyone in between) joined forces with the help of caffeine to talk about the leadership challenges we face. In smaller groups, we covered all kinds of questions throughout the hour, like:

– Men hold the majority of leadership positions in our respective fields. Do you think it matters? What kind of external and internal barriers make it difficult for women to reach the top?
-Work / life balance is an issue that face men and women alike, do you struggle with this? How are you making it work?
-Can you think of a time where gender norms influenced a life or career decision you made? Do you regret it?

Discussions were open, honest, and incredibly motivating. We ended the day with a little networking and a challenge to our participants. We asked the women in the room “What are some ways that we can empower one another, starting Monday?”

Some of our favorite ideas:

“I’m going to pay more attention to the ways my students receive feedback, based on gender. If there are differences, I’m going to address those”.  – Design Professor at University of Cincinnati

“I’m going to make an effort to build relationships with ALL of the women in my office, we should be in this together”.   – Account Manager

“I’m going to compliment the women in my life on more than their cute new dress or how nice they look. The incredible things they do every day need to be acknowledged.”  – Digital Marketing Manager

What’s next?

We’re looking forward to continuing to grow our WomanUp initiative. Our first event had a wait-list of 35+ women, so we’re planning to duplicate this event in August (stay tuned if you missed the first one)! We’re also planning a discussion panel featuring female leaders in the tech industry as part of Cincinnati Design Week. Thanks to feedback from Saturday’s group, we’re looking forward to more coffee meetups, guest speakers on being assertive, negotiation techniques, and other learning opportunities.

If you’re interested in becoming a speaker or supporting WomanUp, please email communications@aigacincinnati.org.

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By aigacincinnati
Published July 27, 2015
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