Design and Technology: engineering a more diverse industry

Friday 26 Nov 2021

In the fourth and final blog in our series looking at equality, diversity and inclusion in our qualifications, our Head of Curriculum for Design and Technology, Louise Attwood, explains how we’re building greater diversity in Design and Technology and Food Preparation and Nutrition

Figures from the Design Council show that our current UK design workforce is 78% male and the proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups sits at 13%.

Designers possess a huge ability to enact positive change - one of the reasons why design is so exciting. But missing out on the breadth of knowledge of all groups of designers means we’re not successfully making our products, buildings, systems and spaces for all people.

“An industry that fails to reflect the people it serves will quickly become irrelevant. How can we meet the needs of users with a blinkered perspective? How can we inspire the next generation of designers without role models to represent them? How can design continue to be a source of world-changing ideas?”

(Design Can) “Manefesto” Design Can (design-can.com))

While reviewing our Design and Technology and Food Preparation and Nutrition specifications, we’ve considered how well these qualifications reflect the lives of all of our learners and how we can improve the opportunities students have to see relevance in the subject matter taught in schools.

Baking in greater diversity

In our GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition specification, we ask students to demonstrate technical skills and we provide a list of possible dishes to exemplify these skills. Our lead moderator has recently updated these dishes to give more diverse options that better reflect the students we teach.

Building more diverse choices

In GCSE Design and Technology, we want to improve the diversity of designers in section 3.3.3 - ‘The Work of Others’ - and address gender bias according to traditional representation in areas of the subject. So we’re working with organisations such as The V&A, The Design Museum and Higher Education partners and also creating a teacher panel to help achieve this.

Students have to study any two designers from the specification, so these additions will give teachers greater choice in designing their curriculum.

Design and Technology has never simply been about teaching subject content and, as a community, we pride ourselves in embedding key skills such as problem solving, creativity and critical thinking.

But are we teaching students to be critical enough? Students learn about anthropometric data and can use it in their Non-Exam Assessment to inform their designs, but are they critical about where that data comes from? Have they considered whether their sources accurately reflect the market for which they are designing?

Shaping and supporting our future designers

Clearly our designers of the future should be critical thinkers with an awareness of what inclusive design really means in our current society.

In Caroline Criado Perez’s ‘Invisible Women’, statistics such as “when a woman is involved in a car crashshe is 47% more likely to be seriously injured,” and “17% more likely to die” should be a real wake up call for the design community. Criado Perez suggests that this is “all to do with how the car is designed – and for whom.”

We hear of face recognition software that doesn’t accurately identify African American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces, but is still used by law enforcement agencies. There are many examples of where well-informed designers could make life-changing improvements to society and our learners should be equipped to play an integral role in this development.

We need a workforce equipped with a breadth of experience and an understanding of inequality, to shape, change and push forward a more inclusive look at design.

These conversations can shape the way we write our specifications. If you'd like to be part of our teacher panel please do get in touch at dandt@aqa.org.uk. It would be great to hear your views on equality, diversity and inclusion in all our Design and Technology, Food and Engineering qualifications.

Blog series

Read the first three blogs in this series;

We’ll have more blogs from our subject experts looking at equality, diversity and inclusion in 2022.