Who/where are the women?

Spawned by recent conversations with friends, I’ve been thinking about people who are known for designing and working with web standards. Specifically those who have a strong interest in CSS or are already using style sheets to compliment or construct beautiful design. In these conversations, we’ve noted that this space seems heavily dominated by men. This concerns me.

All of my art/design-focused life, I’ve competed with and been taught by numerous women. Throughout all of junior high and high school, my art classes were marked by fierce competition with the same three girls. We pushed and stretched each other’s abilities through friendly competition, encouragement, and critique. In college, two of my three design instructors were women, for whom, to this day, I still have an immense amount of respect. The design department seemed well balanced between male and female students. In companies where I’ve worked, the gender mix of designers has been roughly equivalent. One of the most amazing Creative Directors I’ve ever worked under was a woman. There’s no doubt that women have played a significant role as influences in how I work and create as a designer.

However, when I survey the current field of standards-based web design, I see mostly male names. Not enough female names. It feels too much like a boys club. Just look at the list of sites I frequent on my front page. Aside from Heather‘s site (slanted toward really cool photography), and Webgraphics (which, I think, has 1 female author out of 28), my list is comprised of sites all run by men. I’m positive that there are more women out there making waves in design and grappling with and writing about the same CSS issues I deal with on a regular basis. But they’re not as well known for some reason. I realize I can’t necessarily change that, or immediately equalize the awareness of notable women in our industry. But I’d certainly like to be more aware of the female players around me (and you).

I have a few names that come to mind. But unfortunately, not very many. And I’m really trying. I’d like to leave the call wide open. Do you know women in this field who you consider inspiring leaders, thoughtful innovators, or talented designers? Female friends you know? Sites you visit? Designers you admire? And if you, dear reader, happen to be one of the very women I’m seeking, please feel no shame or intimidation in giving yourself a plug.

I don’t care if her/your design style would be deemed “feminine” or not — that distinction is not what I’m after. I’d just like to try to find a little more balance in the field surrounding me. Increasing awareness of what women are doing and creating can only serve to raise the bar for design and broaden my perspective. Who and where are they?

Update: (Sunday 7:00pm) I’ve closed off the comments for this entry early — after only two weekend days. Mostly, it’s because I want to keep a good thing good, while it still is. There are lots of great pointers to names and sites contained within. I’m sure lots more could be added if I left the comments open. It’s a tough decision to close them off now since many of you might not see this entry until Monday morning. But in my observations, the longer a thread is left open, the more it starts to stray off-topic and becomes unmanageable. I’d prefer to keep these recommendations/plugs untainted and free of debate or speculation. Afterall, the questions were Who and Where. And I now have more than I asked for. It was a potentially sensitive and delicate issue. Those who responded handled it with grace. Thank you.