How one design agency is fighting for feminism

Liam Fay-Fright explains why Mother London joined forces with fashion mag Elle to fight the patriarchy, in the design industry and beyond...

I am a feminist. My penis doesn't preclude me from being one. I feel pretty confident in saying this, because my liberal politics, my good grooming and the fact I do all the cooking and cleaning in my house mean that I'm a living paradigm of Modern Man.

I have assimilated the acceptable bits of the feminine, but remain confident in my manhood because, let's face it, my Mrs will never earn what I do, and even as she progresses up the career ladder, she's gotta take time off to look after the kiddies…

Hmm. I can't help thinking that, as a society, we've come so very far in the last 100 years, but ended up accepting a status quo in which, yes, we may agree women are just as capable as men and, yes, it's illegal to employ on the basis of gender, but still women are paid an average of 17.5 per cent less than men.

In the creative industry at executive level it's not as bad - 12 per cent difference - but push that up to creative director and you’re looking at nearer 20 per cent.

Gender prejudice

Mother London created a dedicated website that allows you to find out if your pay is fair

So if I, as a prospective dad living in London, want to be the primary caregiver to my kids, I just can't afford to do it. I'm deprived of that choice by a system that is still riddled with gender prejudice. The aforementioned Mrs is vastly more qualified than me and, despite doing essentially a very similar job in a similar industry, earns about half what I do. She's not under any less stress or working any fewer hours.

Now, I have some traits that I apply to my career. I have a pathological lust for risk and noticed, early on, that if you change your job on a reasonably regular basis and play hardball like Gordon Gekko, the cash has a fair chance of multiplying.

But a system that rewards these traits is inherently masculine. The fact that military analogies ('command and control', 'divide and conquer') are still bandied around modern businesses reinforces the dominance of a hierarchy created by men.

What does feminism mean?

Elle magazine has been working with Mother London, Brave and Widen & Kennedy with three groups of feminists, to 'rebrand feminism'

Mother recently got together with Elle magazine to develop a campaign around modern feminism. The problem was, with 10 people in the room who all described themselves as feminists, no one could agree on what being a feminist actually meant. The obvious irony of an ad agency and a fashion mag rebranding feminism aside, we realised the only way to unpick such a divisive topic was to focus on a specific issue that could explode a debate around it.

Which is how I know all about pay inequality. At the time of going to press, Elle's Make Them Pay - a campaign site that allows you to type in your salary and witness the average pay gap with a person with the same job but of a different sex - has been endorsed by the equalities minister Jo Swinson, deputy PM Nick Clegg, the IPA and D&AD.

You don't choose your sex, you wouldn’t choose to be paid less. If being a feminist is anything, it's about choice. For men and women. I, for one, am pro.

This article appears in the current edition of Computer Arts, 221, which is on sale now. The issue contains an in-depth look at the ever-evolving language of motion design, an interview with talented Korean designer Na Kim, an examination on the growing phenomenon of in-house design, a special report from the AIGA conference... and much more! Grab your print copy here, and the digital edition on Apple Newsstand (UK edition or US edition).

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Why, despite the progress we've made, does a gender pay gap still exist? Let us know your views in the comments below!