Designing Safer Spaces

Julie Morgan
4 min readDec 10, 2020

I’m Julie Morgan and I lead Designing Women San Diego, a group that champions and amplifies female-identifying UX professionals. For the last 5 years, our quarterly events have offered real-world insights from professionals in UX design, content and research. We’ve held workshops that help our members fine-tune design thinking skills and build community. We’ve provided our attendees inclusive and safe opportunities to meet like-minded designers, researchers and content specialists working in San Diego and beyond.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about our success and where we might go from here. I am challenged by the continual uphill battles women and other marginalized groups face in the tech industry and beyond. Challenges like the 4:1 ratio of men to women in tech, the stalled number of leadership roles for women in tech (11%), the attrition rate due to inflexible work schedules for families (28%) or hostile work environments (41%), and the gender pay gap, still stuck at 82 cents to the male dollar for white women, 63 cents for Black women. We also see these disparities when reviewing data from people of color, the LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse communities.

These disparities have been exacerbated by recent existential developments. COVID-19 forced us into isolation and the Black Lives Matter movement unveiled our country’s racism in stark relief. The gaps between us will continue to widen unless we find ways to grow diverse communities and invigorate inclusive economies for everyone.

Safer spaces for all can help propel us to a more future. Safer spaces have long been the cornerstone of design and design exploration. Safer spaces are places where people feel empowered, where unique voices can be celebrated and where innovation can be ignited. Safer spaces may be easy to create when you’re by yourself, or with your friends, or with your “culture fit.” What’s more challenging is scaling spaces to accommodate different experiences and different voices.

Designing Women has always held core values that guide us to design those safe spaces and create an environment for sharing and creativity. Now, more than ever, we recognize the need to expand these values to reflect a wider network and stronger presence of our allyship. To start, we are changing our name and updating our mission to enable all people to use UX methods to achieve a more equitable way of being.

Starting in January 2021, Designing Women will become Design Spaces. We will still offer world-class speakers, networking opportunities and workshops to help you gain skills in the UX industry and beyond. Our core values persist but we will lean into this cornerstone of inclusion and safe spaces so that our diversity and community can help guide the changes we want to see in designing a better world.

The tenets of our community remain the same, but they will be our guiding principles, as we move forward together to secure our space and mandate.

Accessibility. As designers, we strive to create inclusive designs. The same extends to digital and physical spaces. Accessibility means keeping doors wide enough to let everyone in. Accessibility means keeping our color palette readable and using alt tags. There are no edge cases in an accessible environment. Bottom line, accessibility helps make interaction spaces welcoming, accommodating and safe. Design Spaces will always keep events free and accessible.

Consent. Consent is an agreement to an interaction. Consent is not demanded or coerced — consent is granted. Asking rather than assuming an option, vision or point of view is essential to creating a safe space. Keeping spaces and conversations consensual is important to invigorate ideation. To keep our events consensual, Design Spaces will follow Designing Women’s Code of Conduct. Always.

Inclusion. Inclusion means spotlighting diverse voices. Inclusion means advocating leveling the field to enable equal play. Inclusion is in itself a kind of systems thinking, because being inclusive of means you are designing the next interaction between an individual and a group and a system of behaviors. Design Spaces will strive to make just systems, interactions and outcomes.

Generosity. Generosity means paying it forward and the dedication to the lifting of others. Generosity is not just for the recipient, it’s for the giver as well. Maybe that means mentoring someone less experienced; maybe that means advocating for the other when someone talks over a softer voice: “I’d like to hear what they have to say.” Being generous is a leap of faith in someone or something outside of the status quo. Design Spaces will be generous with our allyship, our time and our funds.

Design Spaces trusts and hopes to inspire our allies, to pay it forward to the next generation of status-quo bucking designers and intrepid change makers.

We are innovating ways to scale safe spaces to learn, connect and grow while closing the pay gap, opening opportunities for diverse communities and giving voice to broader issues of justice and equality.

Join Design Spaces, follow us and support us in creating safer spaces for the tech world and beyond.

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Julie Morgan

#UX lead, software designer, mom. Founder: Design Spaces and Designing Women, #designingwsd. I #design tools to connect people, systems, things. @qualcomm