Women Who Design club helps empower young women designers


Courtesy of Emmeline Nooren

Members of the Women Who Design club.

Arabella Hau

The Women Who Design student club has been meeting weekly this semester to create a network of women supporting each other, create an environment for people to talk about the design world and celebrate each other’s hard work and successes.

The newly-born club was created in the spring of 2019 by Kasturi Khanke, senior in industrial design. The idea for the club was brought to life after a few students realized there was a need for a club celebrating women in the College of Design, just as other colleges have clubs dedicated to women.

The president of the club, Emmeline Nooren, is a senior in industrial design. Nooren said one of the major objectives of the club is to create a strong network of women in the field of design.

“You never know, you might need someone who’s a graphic designer for a project but you don’t know a graphic designer,” Nooren said. “With this club, we want to network and build that community of women and empower each other.”

The club is open to anyone who is interested in joining. Nooren emphasized the role the club may play in helping students find their direction in the College of Design. Underclassmen who aren’t certain about a future in design as well as those working toward a degree in design may benefit from the club by connecting with club members who are already in design majors.

With this sense of community, the club is meant to help students see what other students are doing currently and have undergone in the past to get an idea of what they want to do themselves.

Emily Hatch, freshman in pre-architecture, is a member of the Women Who Design club. Hatch said she has found a lot of peer mentors through the club.

“I’ve met a lot of upperclassmen that have really helped me figure out what it is I want to do and encourage me through my portfolio,” Hatch said. “When I started school in August I was terrified, […] but if you go into it with confidence it comes across in your portfolio that you’re trying and learning, rather than if you’re scared and too worried about making a mistake, it comes across as timid through your artwork. That’s helped put a lot of confidence in me.”

To build onto their effort of helping students find their direction, the club frequently welcomes College of Design alumni to their meetings as well. This opportunity allows students to not only build bigger connections outside of the school, but to also learn about the process of applying for positions, internship experiences and what it’s like to be in the workforce.

As a group, the club discussed what changes they want to see in design. One of the changes they often discuss is focused on eliminating the stigma of women in the design world.

“My sophomore year we toured a couple companies,” Nooren said. “And at a couple of them we felt welcomed in as women, but at some of them we were like, ‘Wow we don’t belong here.’ The way they were talking, the way they talked about their female coworkers to us … One female worker asked about something and the answer she received was degrading and implied that she should just be sewing or something.”

Nooren said this stigma of women was one of the reasons for the founding of the club.

“We’re learning about all of these designers who are white males,” Nooren said. “There’s so much diversity out there, why aren’t we learning about that?”

Nooren also mentioned an example of executing change that was significant to her and the club.

“One of our professors, Dan Neubauer, has very much helped us and been an advocate for our club.” Nooren said. “He asked us what he could do in his classes to help us as women and help us navigate a predominantly white male workspace.”

Women Who Design is currently working with and is sponsored by Adobe XD. The club members said they want to spread the word about how people can use this to their advantage and have been teaching students how to use the program. The club members also said they are looking forward to hosting more workshops based on this.

In the future, Women Who Design plans to organize more structured events that will help to build their community. They also plan on finding a more arrangeable meeting time for the next school semester to ensure more people can be involved.

Women Who Design has an Instagram page to celebrate the successes of women in design. The page features women students, faculty and alumni, which Nooren said shows people if they want something, they can do it.

“I think it’s important to just be excited about it; sometimes you might feel like you’re unsure,” Nooren said. “A big thing I want people to take away is that they can be confident in who they are as a person, who they are as a designer, but who they are as a woman, too.”