A conversation with Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton from Women in Lighting.
January 22, 2021
Women in Lighting (WIL) has received the LIT 2020 Spotlight prize, Sharon Stammers and Martin Lupton, the founders of WIL share more about this initiative.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Light Collective is a company of two and was formed 10 years ago. Our creative portfolio of work houses more than architectural lighting design and has grown to encompass many innovative projects which include marketing campaigns, competitions, curation, lighting awards, branding, trade stands and shows, epic parties, pop up events, guerrilla lighting, community projects, light education and light art installations.
Our clients have ranged from the small scale to the large: designing for a school in Glasgow where the brief was set by the kids themselves to a shopping mall in Kuwait.… We are based in the UK but have worked all over the world; creating light in the snow in Finland or in the heat of Kenya…
We like to describe ourselves as lighting evangelists and light activists. All of our work has a light at the heart of it and always looks to promote light, lighting design and lighting designers to as wide an audience as possible. Many of our projects have been collective and have tried to promote the lighting industry as a whole and have included many other designers as our collective collaborators.
“Women in Lighting” have been launched on International Women’s Day in 2019. Can you share more about the project?
In 2018. we made a film called The Perfect Light which featured interviews with lighting designers. After a showing in New York, we were asked by some female audience members why we had not included many women in the film. We were shocked by the observation as it had never occurred to us and that we had not approached this with balance and had mainly interviewed men. I guess we were suffering from the same unconscious bias that exists in many professions. This inspired us to come up with the idea for the Women in Lighting project.
We looked at all the conferences, award juries, magazine panels, etc that we could think of it and discovered to our surprise that this lack of gender balance was very common. We decided that we would like to redress that imbalance and the project is the result of that.
Women in Lighting is an inspirational digital platform that profiles women working in the field of lighting design. It aims to promote their passion and achievements, narrate their career path and goals, celebrate their work and therefore help elevate their profile in the lighting community. What are the key roles of the WIL ambassadors?
In order to make the project international, we approached twenty women in twenty countries and asked them to represent the project in their country. This number increased rapidly and the project currently has over 70 women in an ambassador’s role. They are a point of contact for the project and many are very active, running social media groups, events, discussions and more within their local communities.
What is coming next for WIL? Anything you can share with us in terms of activities, expansion of the platform?
We would like to grow the project both locally and support the ambassadors above but also to grow the project across the lighting industry. We would like to involve more women in areas other than design; manufacturing, education, research etc.
We would like the website to be a massive database of women in lighting that can create inspiration or enable people to search for a female mentor, designer or speaker.
We are currently planning an online event for International Women’s Day on March 8th with segments to suit three time zones. It will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions and social networking. We are also about to launch our very own WIL awards in a few weeks. They are specifically to highlight the achievements of the WIL community and its supporters. We want to seek out and celebrate the things this community achieved in 2020.
What are the main challenges faces by women working in the Lighting Industry?
There are a number of issues that come up over and over again in the interviews. These range from confidence and self-belief to balancing motherhood and a career but challenges are different from country to country.
We have been critiqued that the project is unnecessary but it has revealed that there are many areas of the world where lighting design is not well established and the women involved are finding it difficult to work in lighting. It’s easy for us to forget in the UK and US that women struggle in other countries for general equality let alone in the lighting industry.
We believe that the reason that so many women want to be involved is that they feel a need for support and we hope this project will help provide it.
WIL is receiving the first Spotlight prize from the LIT Design Awards, what does it mean to you both?
Firstly, it is incredibly flattering and we are super grateful for your consideration and the award. Importantly though, it also means that the project is working! We set out to raise the profile of Women In Lighting and winning an award for it means that the project is being noticed.
We are really grateful for the support of Katia Kolovea of Archifos and also formalighting (especially Sharon Maghnagi) who have been involved with the project from the beginning. There would be no project without them, all the women interviewed the ambassadors and the project supporters. This award is for all of them.
It sounds silly but Women in Lighting isn’t just for women 🙂 The project is about inclusivity and balance and how this is beneficial to the profession as a whole. Achieving gender balance is positive for everybody.
About Women in Lighting
International lighting designers and light activists, Light Collective launched the project, Women in Lighting on International Women’s day in 2019. It is a celebratory project that set out to create an inspirational digital platform for women working in the architectural lighting industry to promote their passion and achievements, narrate their career path and goals, celebrate their work and elevate their profile in the lighting community.
Women in Lighting consists primarily of a website – www.womeninlighting.com – with a database of interviews with women from around the world. Starting with lighting designers, the scope has expanded to include women in all aspects of lighting – education, journalism, manufacturing, art and research. The project has already gathered support from individual female designers in over 70 different countries. These “ambassadors” are a point of contact in each location for other women seeking to find out more about the project. Initially started as it was evident that female participation in conferences, committees, juries and panels were underrepresented, the main aim was that as there are approximately 50% of female lighting designers, they get 50% visibility.
Women in Lighting is not about gender inequality but about inclusivity and how this is beneficial to the profession as a whole. The project is supported by formalighting and archifos.
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