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New female-led innovation initiative launches to help pave way for young women in STEM and design

Leading innovation agency Kinneir Dufort paves way for young women in product design with XXEquals  

Bristol-based, world-renowned innovation and product development agency, Kinneir Dufort (KD), has launched a new initiative, XXEquals – the UK’s first mostly female team who are designing products for women across the consumer, industrial and medical markets. 

Around half of the world’s population is female and women buy 85% of household products, yet data shows only 5% of the product and industrial design industry is female. 

Fuelled by the growing need to design more female-centred products, to improve the gender balance in the industry and to pave the way for younger women, XXEquals is already working on projects including smart femcare solution, sustainable period products and voice recognition software. 

Comprising a multi-disciplinary collective of KD experts – 75% of whom are women – XXEquals is pushing for more gender balance and equity across product development in general, in a move which is set to potentially benefit millions of female consumers worldwide and KD’s global blue chip clients. 

KD’s CEO, Merle Hall, says:

“We are incredibly proud to be the first UK consultancy in the product design industry with an arm which pro-actively focuses on products and experiences for women. It feels like there is truly a need to bring more women to the forefront of innovation and product design. 

“XXEquals offers female-focused insight and an empathic design approach, resulting in innately intuitive products. We need to develop a deeper consideration of the physiological or psychological differences for female users.

“As an agency with a strong purpose – to design a better world – we feel it is our responsibility to instigate change. We are proof that a better gender balance is possible in the product design industry and we would love to support other businesses driving equality where possible. 

“We’re not where we want to be yet, representative of the world around us, but we’re focused on our goals. It’s important to us to remember that men always need to be part of the solution too, so we draw on the brilliant expertise of our male strategists, researchers, designers, engineers and makers, who are well versed in allyship and also very engaged in the initiative”.

Merle sees the biggest opportunities to improve gender balance is through better increasing awareness in the industry that diversity is needed; more pro-activity on behalf of employers; flexibility in working practices; focusing on women’s potential as well as achievement; and using mentoring and sponsorship to support and develop women. Career pathways also need to consider career breaks such as maternity leave, longer term childcare and other caring responsibilities. 

To help inspire more female students to enter the industry, KD’s team members give talks at schools and colleges, and partner with The Big Bang and TeenTech fairs to the industry and inform young people.

KD is also working with Kerning the Gap, a design industry campaign to push for more women in leadership, to launch national mentoring cohorts. Merle sees mentoring as key in “enabling and empowering the next generation to have the confidence to climb up the leadership ladder”.

Furthermore, KD researches future consumer needs, which is critical in attracting a greater diversity of younger people into the industry while giving consumers relevant products. This includes research on changing attitudes in areas including gender identity and sustainability. 

KD partners with Babassa, a social enterprise in Bristol, to provide work placements for young people from diverse backgrounds, speak at events and promote career opportunities.

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