International Women’s Day 2021

In the midst of a perpetual lockdown, in the depths of cabin fever whilst we observed the one-year anniversary of the day we were ordered to “work from home for two or three weeks”, it’s been hard to keep track of the passing of time. Well, as surprising as it may be, it’s now April and we’ve just said goodbye to Women’s History Month, which took place in March.

Due to our new online proficiency when it comes to work-related social events and conferences, we were able to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) (8 March) in style with the Women in Lighting (WIL) “Global Gathering”. Below I pick out a few of the inspiring talks from the Global Gathering, and share some of my “Choose To Challenge” pledges from IWD.

Firstly though, I am sure most of you reading this will know about WIL, but if not, I’ll set the scene: it’s a platform that champions women working in lighting design. Started by the wonderful Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton of Light Collective, and supported by ambassadors from around the world, WIL strives to elevate the profile of women in the lighting community through different campaigns, such as the Global Gathering. The event was a three-part series of talks and social get-togethers that spanned three different time zones – “Asia & The Pacific”, “Europe, Middle East & Africa” and “The Americas”.

WIL Global Gathering 

The WIL Global Gathering was an opportunity to spend a whole day listening to wonderful, talented women from within our own industry speaking about their work, their passions and their lives.

If you were up from 6am (GMT) as I was, you were able to catch talks from the earliest session – Asia & The Pacific. We heard from Dorothy Di Stefano (Australia) who spoke about the role of experiential art and design, which was especially interesting in a moment when the economic and social effects of Covid-19 are having a negative impact these cultural sectors.

New Zealand’s Kyra Xavia taught us about lighting with respect, care and responsibility for our wildlife and natural environments. She spoke to us about Dark Design and learning to celebrate not just the light but the darkness as well. As lighting designers, we are also designers of darkness – but perhaps we do forget that sometimes.

Michela Bonzi and Jorg Frank Seemann from Switzerland gave us a delightful talk about their inspirations and they stressed the importance of creatives sharing with one another, and staying curious in order to keep inspiration flowing.

The newly formed Green Light Alliance gave a talk on the importance of circular design within the lighting industry whilst giving us an overview of the current initiatives in place within our sector. They walked us through some key circular design principles and applied them to familiar lighting scenarios.

As we headed towards the end of the day and The Americas session, theatre lighting legend Anne Militello gave us a fascinating summary of her many inspirations and influences that have contributed to her professional journey. I’m definitely, personally, very envious of the life she’s led thus far.

There are plenty more talks on top of the ones I’ve mentioned here – the entirety of the WIL Global Gathering sessions can be found on YouTube, here.

The wonderful, unique part of this event, however, were the social roulette sessions that happened at the end of every time zone’s segment. These were sessions where the user/attendee logged on, hit “go” and got randomly matched with a stranger (or an old friend… depending on where you landed) for a three-minute fast-paced conversation. It was a chance to share stories, inspiration and ideas with one another before the clock ran out. You then got disconnected, and you were free to match up with someone else for another three minutes and this continued for the rest of the hour. Never before 2020 did I think I would be sitting there on a Monday afternoon talking to fellow lighting designers from all around the world – if you see any more WIL Social Roulettes planned for the future, make sure you sign up!

International Women’s Day 

On Monday 8 March we celebrated International Women’s Day and this year’s theme was “Choose To Challenge”.

The IWD website states: “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge.”

We all have a responsibility to actively fight against stereotypes and biases to ensure that we reach true gender equality. So, I encourage all of you to take on this pledge with me and choose to challenge. Challenge the people in your life to become responsible allies. Challenge everyone around you to call out behaviour that encourages negative gender biases. Challenge others to listen when somebody speaks out about their experiences.

Our industry has proven that we are one of the good ones, and I am delighted to find allies for equality everywhere I turn. But still, I know we as an industry can do better – let’s fight this together.

Blog post by Sophie O’Rourke