Event Recap: WIN NYC x Smart Design, Designing a Gender Inclusive Future

In July, WIN NYC hosted “Designing a Gender-Inclusive Future” in partnership with Smart Design, a strategic design company that helps people live better and work smarter through the power of this approach. The event focused on how an inclusive design process is central to addressing and celebrating the full spectrum of gender expression in our world. We opened with Design Director Stephanie Yung (pioneer on inclusive design) sharing her perspective on how this design approach is evolving to keep the lens of gender at the forefront as we look to create more thoughtfully crafted products, services and experiences.

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WIN members subsequently participated in a series of mini-design challenges to question how our inherent biases exist across the parenting, athletics, healthcare, education, and policy worlds. Smart curated workshop leads from their own inclusive design practice, and gathered experts from these specific fields, or those with a specific lived experience to share:


Through their first-hand stories and insights, we debated and ideated on a range of challenges under these five topic areas:

1.  How might we provide the resources to educate on and support gender-neutral parenting?

A Challenge Our Expert Shared
Our expert, Bobby, and his partner have decided to raise their child to be “gender creative.” This means they’ve elected to not assign a gender on their child’s birth certificate and social security, and avoid the binary terminology used almost universally in society. Many pain points accompany this, including unnecessarily gendered products and services, social pressures, and limited resources around education and language.

The Solutions We Discussed
To eliminate some of the friction in gender-neutral parenting, WIN members suggested a range of solutions. Some were simple, such as initiating more conversations about gender in traditional expecting parent classes, or creating a “Starter Guide for Understanding Gender Neutral Parenting” for parents to share with family and friends. Other ideas included creating a gender-neutral parenting app that functions like Waze, identifying barriers in a community and highlighting gender inclusive schools, restaurants, playgrounds, etc.


2. How might we redesign the locker room to become an inclusive space?

A Challenge Our Expert Shared
Athletics offer an strong sense of community and belonging, especially while growing up. The gym locker room is the epicenter of gathering for athletes. However, for trans individuals, athletics and athletic facilities can cause anxiety and discomfort, due to their traditional gender segregation.

The Solutions We Discussed
To address this issue, WIN members brainstormed how to transform a locker room into a space that creates a sense of community for all genders, as well as how to create an open space that fosters camaraderie, without compromising privacy or space. The group designed a locker room that starts with a shared community space, leading into a room with tubular pods for people to towel off and change in privacy. After a workout, athletes can head into the community shower space, where the stalls are separated by glass walls with an adjustable screen, perfect for tall and short athletes to be able to talk to those around them as they wash up.


3. How might we empower primary and secondary school counselors and nurses to recognize, understand, and educate around transgender health?

A Challenge Our Expert Shared
The healthcare system is a minefield for transgender people looking for answers and treatment. Robyn shared her experience as a trans woman and brought up the pain points in the pre-health care process – this part is often the most confusing and least comfortable for trans people as they search for answers on their health.

The Solutions We Discussed
The WIN women’s solutions focused on creating a first line of treatment for trans people by integrating trans health into the gender segregated sex education curriculum. Other potential solves included educating school counselors on gender issues, and even having a designated gender counselor for each school district to Skype students who have questions about trans health. Finally, the group proposed a school-wide reading list with trans-inclusive literature, so that the entire community has a basic level of understanding on gender issues.

4. How might we create a safe space for LGTBQ+ children in schools?

A Challenge Our Expert Shared
There is a lack of understanding of and training on trans issues in our education system. With few advocates and leaders, students fail to learn about these issues, perpetuating a gender binary culture.

The Solutions We Discussed
WIN members placed an emphasis on cultural competency, in and out of schools, starting with making it a norm to share your pronouns when introducing yourself. For at-home education, companies should reinvent typical children’s books and songs to introduce gender creativity at a young age. In the education system, the group proposed creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students to commune and learn from one another, employing diverse leadership, and forming co-ed teams for all students to play together.


5. How might we build empathy and responsiveness in the NYPD towards trans women of color?

A Challenge Our Expert Shared
Ali shared that the life expectancy for trans women of color is only 35 years of age. This startling fact shifted the group’s focus to understanding the scope of issues that transgender women in NYC face, including a lack of resources, misidentification on NYC IDs, and potential violence in the criminal justice system.

The Solutions We Discussed
To combat these challenges, WIN members suggested more education for the NYPD in order to improve its relationship with the trans community. Methods of education included creating a hotline for police officers to call or text when they have questions about trans people and creating a community ambassador who works with law enforcement as a liaison between them and the trans community; this ambassador could train the officers and even ride along with them on shifts.

To conclude…
A huge thank you to our incredible experts and hosts – this event was extremely perspective-expanding. One of the most powerful takeaways for the WIN team was that as women, we so often advocate for ourselves to be at the forefront of designing products that touch our lives. The same must be said for other groups, and it is our responsibility to think beyond that and how we can continue to push the boundaries when it comes to celebrating individuality, and fostering a sense of belonging and inclusiveness in our design solutions, with the lens of gender in mind. The key to successful inclusive design is to remember that we are designing for a world with real people, and we can only understand another person’s experience by asking and listening with an open heart and mind.


Written by Emma Anderson, Tina Haertel, Katie Burwick, Katie Oberwager, and Maria Potoroczyn. Huge thank you to the team at Smart, including Molka Fendri and Kim Anderson

Photos by Katie Burwick


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