As the ways of defining business and industries change, understanding how and where the designer fits – and what skills are most valuable – is important for educators. The education of a creative, flexible and effective designer is an important goal for being ‘work ready’ in this changing environment, which emphases multidisciplinary ‘design thinking’ (Ball 2002; Bridgstock 2013). Yet, students, educators and the design profession may differ in what technical and social skills they prioritise (Savage, Davis & Miller 2009). This paper investigates the educational experience and perspective of female designers, who comprise nearly a half of the design student population at university yet remain underrepresented in leadership roles in practice.
In-depth qualitative interviews with nineteen female industrial designers (who completed their degree course over a period of ten years at one Australian university) explored their life, university and career trajectories. Participants openly discussed the highlights and lowlights of their educational experience, emphasising the importance of developing professional capabilities beyond the basic design skill-set (for example, entrepreneurship and skills in small business management). The findings, highlighting what aspects best develop the skills base and confidence of female designers, may help inform educators and shape future curriculum change.