They made the appointment together, father and daughter, in order to find out what the bachelor in design management is all about. Apparently she was looking for a study program in which she could follow her affinity towards creativity, whereas dad seemed to have something in mind, which would lead to a solid job qualification, and would be of real value in the economy as he knows it. That’s why the ‘management’ in the program’s title seemed to ease him a bit and accordingly he was very curious to find out what the heck ‘design’ had to do with it.
If it was their attempt to find a compromise between themselves that brought them in my office I cannot tell, but during our conversation, it became clear to me that she was there mainly because of the design, and he only because of the management.

What a cliché, I can hear you mumble, but it’s a fact that currently, women apply for a place in the design management program 5 times more often than men. So that’s why the situation was no surprise to me: the consideration for design management came from her.

How ‘delicate’ the situation really is I could also experience during the selection procedure for the class of this year: there we had to determine who would be our new ‘fresh(wo)men’. After the first selection round, some lecturers were considering to appeal for a quota, for men, in order to avoid that the class would be solely ‘manned’ with women.
And to be honest, the male applicant really were struggling to sustain against the phalanx of highly motivated females, who were presenting themselves in perfect condition, meticulously prepared and who passed the selection procedure with class and style: very focussed and mature the girls were presenting their work to the members of the selection committee, who repeatedly were left speechless with the competencies displayed to them. The boys, in comparison, almost seemed unmotivated and confused and repeatedly had to be reminded to get going …
After the selection procedure was done, the first 8 spots were all taken by girls, totalling 16 out of 20  …

The fact that predominantly women show interest in the design management course is definitively not related to the attractiveness of the lecturers at hand (which indeed are mainly men, which also is ‘delicate’). No, the reason is in something very fundamental and stems from aspects in the program way beyond an artificial level. Also, the often used reasoning that the ‘creative bit’ is attracting women towards design is too simplistic: in other ‘creative’ study programs you’ll find both sexes equally spread, though there are differences related to the nature of where creativity is applied. Next to that the title ‘design management’ cannot be compared to e.g. ‘engineering’, where the title is already setting the tone and hinting to a future occupation of graduates: ‘engine creation’ – which is clearly appealing to the male. Compared to engineering, design management is rather gender-neutral and open for interpretation.

What I think attracts women most to design management, is the ability or competence which is the outcome of the study: enabling creativity and design to flourish in organisations and then helping to turn it into reality. To achieve this design management demands encompassing and flexible thinking, one which is able to use ‘both sides of the brain’ so to say, which is able to alter between logical, analytical thinking and creative, abstract thinking. This ‘female’ form of thinking is not one that wants to ‘mother’, but one which is able to view the issue from another angle, and thus can see things which are hidden to the very focussed and stringent  ‘masculine’ way of observing – it’s a view on the whole, not on the detail: a holistic point of view.
Of course, also males can think this way, no worries, but it’s generally not ‘biologically’ accessible to them, nor is it well developed. Likewise, I know female engineers who think as guys do, but who are definitive ‘biologically’ female: but also these are very rare.

When I was trying to explain to my visitors how design management, in its optimal form, would establish this holistic way of thinking within organizational structures, and with that could enable the creation of relevant and human-centred solutions, I thought for an instance that also dad was seeing something in it. He ‘confessed’ to be a manager and then he stressed that he would like his daughter to do something that could play a significant role in international business. Well, most apparently ‘design’ alone seemed a bit too creative, less career supportive to him…
Now I am curious to see how this continues and if I can welcome the daughter in my program for the coming year, but foremost I am curious if something did stick with daddy…

Since their visit, al lot of people showed interest in the program and have knocked on our door, out of which, as expected, 80% were female.
If it’s meant to be that a human-centred business will prevail as the more sustainable and successful way of business doing and that females naturally provide the appropriate thinking needed to shape and manage these businesses, will we need a quota in future?

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