Women Working in Sales and Manufacturing

9 Dec 2023 // Interesting Reads

131 years.
That’s how long it will take us to achieve Gender Parity, according to the World Economic Forum. Gender Parity being the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, both Public and Private.

231 years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft published her most well-known work ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ as a direct response to those educational and political theorists of the eighteenth century who did not believe women should receive a rational education. She argued women are not naturally inferior to men but appear to be because they lack education. What seems so obvious today, was revolutionary and controversial in the late 1700’s. Nowadays the worlds governments mostly agree that women should have equal access to institutional education, but it is important to dive deeper into the words of Mary Wollstonecraft. Education at its essence is the process of receiving or giving systemic instruction. We associate the word with schools and institutions, but education in the form of systemic instruction is a core function of society.

Based on an industry survey by Light Collective in 2020, we can see the ratio of men and women lighting designers has reversed, indicating a clear shift in systemic instruction which tells women they can be lighting designers or are suited to design. Coincidently (or perhaps not) this shift coincides with a shift in thinking, where Architecture and Architectural Lighting have transitioned from an engineering discipline to a design discipline.

Regardless of the chicken or the egg, we should all see this as positive progress. Yet, working in a design firm is only one part of the lighting industry. I am not aware of such a thorough investigation of the manufacturing community, but I can draw on my own experiences. Women tend to be concentrated in customer service, marketing, and HR roles. Sometimes as team leaders, and rarely as directors. Our systemic instruction allows this to be possible, even pursued; because we are told that’s the type of work women are good at.

I will ask the question: Where are the women in sales departments, in technical departments, in true leadership roles? Yes, they do exist, but parity does not.

My experiences have prompted me to pay more attention over the past 12 months. The number of women applying for the open positions I have advertised has been minimal relative to their male counterparts, yet I have been impressed with the capabilities of every woman that has walked through the door, even if not exactly suited to the role. I cannot say the same about every man that I have interviewed.

You might be aware of a statistic that has been repeated so many times, nobody knows the true answer anymore, but it goes something like ‘women will apply for a job if they meet 100% criteria, where men apply for a job if they meet 60% criteria’. Actually, it was a blog posted on the Harvard Business Review website in 2014 citing an internal Hewlett-Packard report about intracompany promotions in the early 2000s, which was then oversimplified by Forbes for an online article. The statistic is entirely incorrect but has been re-reported by so many reputable sources that it’s became ‘fact’ and overshadowed true research with empirical evidence on the topic.

Assuming women are more selective in their job application, it does create an imbalance that needs to be addressed in another forum. Regardless, it should not diminish that there are women very capable of not only getting the job but being very successful in the role. In my view, the systemic instruction should be focused on men being more selective to minimise wasted recruitment resources and increasing probability of success in the role. Let me say that again. The problem is a systemic behaviour in men, that is being re-framed and projected onto women as a fault in their way of thinking. 1792, women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be because of the systemic instruction.

Rather that hypothesis endlessly on why women are not equally represented, we decided to ask women working for lighting manufacturers to share their experiences.

So, to current leaders, pay attention and reflect on what systemic instructions we can positively influence.

To women working for lighting manufactures, open up the dialogue, share your thoughts or reservations.
To society at large, pay attention and reflect on what systemic instructions we can positively influence. You are already a leader to someone whether you realise it or not.

Because ultimately, we all directly benefit from gender equality not only in the workplace, but in our society.

The fear of criticism from my peers kept me quiet on this topic for a long time. Afterall, as a male, who am I to comment on women’s experiences in society and the workplace? And I imagine there are many of you out there that feel the same way.

As a man putting my perspective forward, I know every word will be scrutinised and groups of people will be waiting for me to slip up or have a view different to their own and will criticise me at the first opportunity. I will freely admit, I don’t have all (any of) the answers. But, I am willing to put myself out there in a very public way and learn in full view of everyone. I will say the wrong thing, develop ideas that will support one group of people and be offensive to another group at the same time, it is a minefield that I do not know how to navigate. So, I ask only one thing: educate me publicly and constructively. Hopefully many of the people lurking in the shadows will come into the light and drive this conversation forward, because that’s the only way we can move forward as a society.

Daniel Lemajic

Interviews with women working for lighting manufacturers


Featured in arc issue 137

Back to Top