Design Leadership

Women in Design Leadership – Changing Heartsets

As we talk about gender and its role, the world has seen many advancements in gender equality. Coming to our field, today we see several art pieces, jewel designs, and creative startups that have a woman behind the chair who first had an idea—an idea to create a design that will change the world. At present, where technological advancement plays a crucial role, the aspect of using the combination of creativity and innovation is in the hands of the designer.

Women taking part in various design sectors are an asset to the industry because of their sense of perspective. Since historical times, it has been known that a feminine perspective is quite different from the male vision. Active listening and compassionate solutions are some benefits that female presence offers in the design sector. Women bring in a sense of empathy, which eventually presents a new route to delivering a design.

The understanding of design leadership consciously needs some dynamic minds, for which a panel of an-all female experts had gathered for a discussion on “Women in Design Leadership – Changing Heartsets”. Hosted during the Pink City Design Confluence 2022 by the ARCH College of Design and Business, the discussion involved Five Women experts in their respective sectors who have reached towering heights of recognition by applying design thinking to their fields.

The panellists of the session were Dr Pooja Mukul, Director, Jaipur Foot Rehabilitation centre; Ms Archana Surana, Founder and Director, ARCH College of Design & Business; Mrs Shipra Mathur, founder of PEN; Mrs Neelofar Singh, Executive Chairperson at Women Mentors Forum and Miss Adelina who is a Designer and also helps women immigrants set up their business across Europe.

Before we begin, it is imperative to know that the discussion involved individuals from different fields united by one aspect, leadership. The various fields where this has played a vital role and some more interesting points are discussed below.

Design Leadership in Medicine and Health Care: Importance and Its Impact

In medical science, the goal is to help the end-user find the smoothest way to satisfaction from their ailments. It may involve a complex surgery or a simple medication. As per Dr Pooja Mukul, who is the Director of The Jaipur Foot Rehabilitation centre, “there is no other field in comparison to medical & healthcare, where deeper or more intricate design thinking skills are required.”

The reason being “When you are designing something for the human body, that not only has a perfect form but also functions equally well; it requires a meticulous amount of thought on how one can apply design skills for the same”
From the experience of Dr Pooja herself, the field of design does not differentiate based on gender. There is no limitation that a designer will face while designing an artificial limb because she is a female or otherwise.

The same goes for leadership. It is the end-user for whom the designing part is carried out. It is crucial for us, as design heads recognise how design should not be based on any bias. It is the respect among teammates that counts for a well-cooperated procedure.

Design Leadership: It Starts with Mindset towards Heartset

As per Dr Pooja Mukul, it is vital to have a premeditated mindset before we begin making our decisions based on our hearts. When you recognise or realise your mindset, then and only then designers could move further with your heart set.

In the words of Mrs Pooja, “it is important to have a mindset that allows you to move on to the heart set”. It will give you space to look at problems more significant than the glamour of beauty and jewellery.” In other words, learners need to realise that their contribution is required in more meaningful areas.

Further, the moderator for the session Ms Archana Surana, Founder and Director of ARCH College of Design & Business added to this, pointing out that looking at design in its raw or bare sense is required. For Instance, When we talk of clothing and design, it should not be restricted to outer fashion statements. It must involve design regarding patients with Parkinson’s disease or broken shoulder. It gives the word design a more approachable and meaningful derivation.

Design Leadership in Media: Collective Responsibility using Empathy to Design Strategies

Design is not limited to aesthetics or Graphic or digital only. For designing a strategy, you need to realise the problem. Mrs Neelofar Singh rightly pointed out, “As a woman, today one has a lot of opportunities to grab and make a change. This was not the case in earlier times.”

It is important to realise that designing the strategy is challenging until you do not realise the root of the issue. A collective effort is required to bring this more profound meaning of design in front of the world.

Apart from this, Mrs Archana Surana pointed out that we must recognise the different ergonomics of design like social Design, circular Design, and Universal Design. Today, we need to understand the dots that are being connected. Design is moving from product design to collaborative design. There are some exciting endeavours in the design field that are yet unexplored.

Acknowledging rural Women and their needs in various sectors

Another point highlighted by the founder of PEN, Mrs Shipra Mathur, was that we must be open to removing the urban-rural division. Today, villages have become more advanced in terms of designing solutions.

It wouldn’t be wrong to point out what Mrs Archana concluded from Mrs Shipra’s speech. If a person truly wishes to learn and find the applications of their academics in real-time, visiting a village would bring that enlightenment to them.

Design Leadership in Business: Importance of Design for Creative Immigrants at Borders

Another Guest on the panel of the discussion, Miss Adelina, put forward the idea of designing ways to bring together minds from all across the globe. An active practitioner, she helps women immigrants across Europe and a couple more nations set up their businesses.

According to her, we can design something much better and bigger than we can imagine through collective efforts and a creative outlook to build something.

How do Women Form an Important Part of the Design and Leadership sector?

The panel felt the presence of Mrs Neelofar Singh through her words on women’s role in the design sector. She is the Executive Chairperson at Women Mentors Forum and has been associated with the social defence and security ministry. She has worked as a superintendent for a juvenile home and is currently working as a creative entrepreneur in art.

Quoting her words on the value of female presence in the design sector, she said, “Women are designers by birth”. Whether you are talking about empathy required to realise and recognise a creative mind, women are experts at the job.

Right from ground level, the primary step of Design Thinking is empathy. Empathy requires digging to the roots so that design practitioners find mental peace. For males, it may be one of the goals limited to medical science, whereas women carry empathy for all day round routine tasks.


Having listed the various fields where design thinking forms a significant part of development and innovation, it becomes vital to use it. Today, design and fashion are stereotyped by their limitation to aesthetic senses. However, by removing the veil, we can see that it is, in fact, a method of developing solutions for all the problems. It shows the pathway and who can pave that path the best. Needless to say again, we will quote Mrs Neelofer’s words, “Women are designers by birth”. It is because of their understanding of the true essence of design.

The YouTube video on Arch’s Channel can help in learning more about the topic and knowing more about these fantastic speakers.