Guest blog by Rashana Zaklit, associate, Gensler, Los Angeles
This is a nod to my fellow female colleagues and professionals. I don’t want to discuss how far women have come in the business and design world. That is an obvious example if you look around. I am interested in expressing what a woman’s perspective brings to design, interiors, architecture, and product design. Placing a woman in a room usually full of male decision makers can make or break a business—and no, this is not opinion based. Studies find that inviting female leaders to the table brings a unique perspective and challenges traditional ways of approaching sales, marketing, and the bottom line. Women are the top consumers in today’s world. Looking around there are examples of female entrepreneurs who are responding to a social media and online shopping craze! Female designers today ask not only the practical questions, but they make sure to have in mind the end-users objectives. For example I am a hospitality designer. When approaching a hotel experience a space has to feel sexy and inviting and appealing to females—and males of course. But consider the way a woman uses the space; what her needs are. And I guarantee it will drive business.
Consider a couple on a dinner date. Have you ever noticed there is nowhere to place your bag or purse? For me personally this is a regular thing that is instantly annoying. Why isn’t there a place designed at the table that alleviates this anxiety? I can’t put it on the floor or on the dining table. It may or may not be able to hang on my chair. Ok forget it—my lap it is. It’s such a simple thing to solve and often times are not even thought about. The focus in design is always creating gorgeous, intriguing spaces that reap financial reward. Imagine the reward of a space that addresses every need? Besides just being aesthetically pleasing? And yes—if there is a purse hook at the bar—I give it an A+ because they have thought of me and my needs. Therefore (assuming the food is just as good) I am more apt to sit longer and spend more, and women are the predominant spenders and decision makers in American households.
What I am suggesting is that designing towards females’ sensibilities (however that may range) is simply smart business. This is not to say traditional stereotypes of what women like and respond to is what people perceive. Designing a hotel guestroom in pink for example does not convince a modern, educated woman to stay there. However, designing a room that is comfortable to her and her family’s needs, or her business needs, and gives her the feeling of luxury definitely will. They are equally traveling, attending business meetings, and on the go! Designing to females takes into consideration our evolving status in today’s business world. How do you design for a woman who works 12-14 hour days, while maintaining personal relationships and motherhood? These ladies are not hunkered down at home. They are in the thick of it—and let me tell you as my husband constantly reminds me, we like to spend! It’s in your best interest to design spaces that women enjoy being in. And let me tell you where female’s congregate males will also deem as equally successful. Another example is a retail example. I have over 15 women in my family. When I shop with any of them, we like to chat and try on clothes together. That’s what close families do. Why isn’t there a space in retail shops that caters to this? Single stall changing rooms work for the majority but how many times do you just want to gab and try things on for fun with your sister or friends stating ‘hey come look at this… do you like it?’ Happy customers spend more.
Have you ever noticed what bringing a female to the charette or business meeting does? There is a natural change in tonality and a respect level that is adjusted in these settings. A male dominated room discussing a hotel lobby might be slightly more aggressive focusing on bottom line conversations, schedules, staffing, etc. While women of course consider these critical topics, they may also be thinking about things such as female-driven customer experiences that also equal in profit.
End of story is that collaboration is key. Understanding all sides of the story and experiences is also key. I recently had a new father at my work remind me to locate a baby changing stations in the men’s room as well! I was instantly taken back and in an effort to not be completely one sided, thought, of course! How could I—someone who preaches women’s equality—forget that! What a great reminder that it works both ways.
Roles are changing and the needs and interests of men, women, and the family dynamic are evolving. Good business addresses this evolvement prior to putting pen to paper. We are lifestyle designers, not just architects or interior designers.
In my profession I am always enormously proud of my intelligent and forward thinking colleagues—male and female. And especially grateful to be working amongst so many talented ladies who are always challenging today’s conversations and carving out an important place in design and business.
Ladies, you make me proud.