In 2010, a global survey found that female illustrators were unanimously paid less than their male counterparts.In 2015, one researcher found that no female illustrator had been commissioned for the cover of one of the U.S.’s most prestigious magazines. In 2016, an internationally recognized cartoonist prize—The Grand Prix d’Angoulême—nominated 30 men for the win but not a single woman. Do we still need to talk about gender equality in the creative industry? Sigh. Obviously we do.
And so we do so at every opportunity that we get, like this last October, at the inaugural Eye on Design conference in Minneapolis. For our Women in Illustration panel, illustrator Ping Zhu brought her personal experience to the table, and illustrators Wendy MacNaughton and Julia Rothman discussed co-founding the directory, Women Who Draw, earlier this year. Intended to help editors and creative directors diversify their content, the site is an open directory of professional illustrators, artists, and cartoonists that identify as female, and it’s organized by location, religion, ethnicity, and orientation.
Zhu, MacNaughton, and Rothman discussed not only how they personally turn negatives into positives, but also how others can do the same. They gave advice for those coming up against inequality every day as well as for those in a position of privilege. The three professionals also shared their war stories, suggesting remedies for self-care and dealing with sexist trolls. Zhu helpfully proposes replying to all disparaging tweets with “You have doo doo in your pants,” as a way of revealing a comment’s idiocy. For Rothman, at every difficult turn, it’s always been best to ask: “What would Michelle Obama do?”
As MacNaughton so perfectly summarized: “If we’re seeing work from mostly white, straight men, then we’re only hearing one perspective.” Here’s more on why that’s true, and some practical suggestions for what everyone can do to actively address imbalances: