What do we owe to each other?

A presentation at Designing Women/UX Speakeasy (San Diego IxDA) in in San Diego, CA, USA by Jonathon Colman

See the full text of this talk on UX Collective.

Men tend to sit out conversations about gender equality and equity. They often consider it to be a “women’s issue” or are afraid of making a mistake and saying the wrong thing.

But men are also in the majority of leadership roles—and not just in the design industry. They have the most power to create change and create equity across all genders. So this isn’t a conversation they can sit out.

When it comes to gender equity, what should we expect of men in the design industry? And what do they expect of themselves?

To find out, we’ll take a time-bending journey from West Africa to Dublin, Ireland, to Silicon Valley and back again. We’ll look at survey data that cuts through the bullshit and crosses all levels of the design industry. And I’ll show you real-world examples of big and small actions that have actually created more gender equity in design. And we’ll see why progress is better than perfection.



The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.

  • Full text of this talk: “What do we owe to each other?”

    Men like me go through life on Easy Mode. But we can’t sit out the fight for gender equity.

  • Designing Women of San Diego

    Founded in 2014, Designing Women champions women UX professionals with networking events, design labs and speaking opportunities. We work with companies to explore the benefits of inclusion in innovation.

  • Friends of Burkina Faso

    Friends of Burkina Faso, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable NPCA-affiliated organization, maintains a network of returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and friends of Burkina Faso, provides funding and assistance to support projects in Burkina Faso, improves social interaction, communication and information exchange, and educates others about the country and culture of Burkina Faso.

  • Mefloquine (Lariam) on Wikipedia

    Mefloquine, often sold under the brand name Lariam, is a medication used to prevent or treat malaria. When used for prevention it is typically started before potential exposure and continued for several weeks after potential exposure. It can be used to treat mild or moderate malaria but is not recommended for severe malaria. It is taken by mouth.

  • My Lariam Dreams

    There’s been a call for the British Army to stop using a controversial anti-malaria drug, mefloquine - best known under the tradename Lariam. The Ministry of Defence and the NHS insist it’s safe but some can suffer unnerving effects.

  • Memento (film) on Wikipedia

    Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Guy Pearce stars as a man who, as a result of an injury, has anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) and has short-term memory loss approximately every fifteen minutes. He is searching for the people who attacked him and killed his wife, using an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he cannot remember.

  • Marja Huhta: 100 Days of Dublin Doors

    Dublin is full of gorgeous, brightly colored doors. And I love color —esp. fun color on doors!

  • John Scalzi: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

    I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.

  • The Good Place on Netflix

    Due to an error, self-absorbed Eleanor Shellstrop arrives at the Good Place after her death. Determined to stay, she tries to become a better person. Starring: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper. Creator: Michael Schur.

  • The Good Place on Wikipedia

    The Good Place is an American fantasy comedy television series created by Michael Schur. It focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who arrives in the afterlife and is welcomed by Michael (Ted Danson) to “the Good Place”, a highly selective Heaven-like utopia he designed, as a reward for her righteous life. However, she realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behavior while trying to become a better and more ethical person.

  • Ella Mei Yon

    Ella Mei Yon writes her family allegory, exploring how memory creates meaning beyond generation and culture.

  • Survey on gender equity in the design industry

    While there’s a wide range of gender equity issues, this survey is focused on understanding what people expect from men and what they expect from themselves. This survey is open to people of all genders, including men.

  • Watchmen on Wikipedia

    Watchmen is an American comic book maxiseries by the British creative team of writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins. It was published by DC Comics in 1986 and 1987. Moore used the story as a means to reflect contemporary anxieties and to deconstruct and satirize the superhero concept.

  • How Etsy Attracted 500 Percent More Female Engineers

    Want cognitively diverse teams? Want women engineers? Do what Etsy did: Change who you target, and change how you train them.

  • Require Diverse Slates of Candidates to Minimize Gender Dynamics

    When it comes to overcoming mindsets that cause the leadership gender gap, one of the practices that we recommend is to require recruiters (internal and external) to deliver diverse slates of candidates for key positions. While companies often focus on senior positions, we recommend this practice be implemented for positions above the diverging point (the point at which the % of women begins to decline and that of men increases).

  • We need to talk about crying at work

    I think the hardest part of crying at work is that we’re not supposed to talk about it. No matter how open and aware you are, you likely still have biases that society’s drilled into you — I know I do. Most of us are socialized to think that women are always emotional and that men never cry. So work cultures created by men are likely to be cultures where crying isn’t accepted.

  • How Intercom Creates Inroads for New Designers: An Interview with Jasmine Friedl

    Jasmine Friedl knows how hard it can be to land that dream job. Sure, she’s the Director of Design at Intercom today and she’s led teams at Udacity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Facebook, but her career in design has never come easy. Hard work, risks and a lucky break are what helped her really get a foot in the door. And now that she’s doing the hiring, Friedl can see the barriers to young talent more clearly than ever—from criteria-free recruiting to an overreliance on high-profile experience. But she’s not playing that tired old game. She’s changing it.

  • Intercom Design Team

    We’re Intercom’s product design team. Our tools help businesses and customers talk with each other. You know, like it’s actually the 21st century.

  • The Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) Feedback Tool

    The Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) feedback tool helps you to deliver more effective feedback. It focuses your comments on specific situations and behaviors, and then outlines the impact that these behaviors have on others.

  • Clayman Institute for Gender Research

    Since 1974, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research has been committed to making the future feminist.

  • Kelly Sue DeConnick on Twitter

    Kelly Sue DeConnick is an American comic book writer and editor.

  • Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) on Wikipedia

    Carol Susan Jane Danvers is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.

  • “Right Now” by Van Halen (For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, 1991)

    “Right Now” is a rock song written by the group Van Halen for their album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The song reflects on living for the moment and not being afraid of making a change.