Who are the women that inspire you in your UX work? Why?



March 8 is International Women’s Day, and while it should perhaps be Women’s Day once in every two days, on this day in particular we shine a spotlight on the bigger picture.

It’s a day recognised and celebrated by the United Nations, and a crucial part of the new Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed and adopted by the global community in September last year. That sounds very grand and lofty, but in reality it is a chance for all of us—you, me, civil society, the private sector, and governments—to actually make some important decisions about things that end up affecting real lives.

One of these important goals is achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls. It’s important for a whole bunch of interrelated reasons. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is [I]“Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”[/I]. It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their communities as we aim to give gender inequality a firm expiration date.

[B]I’d love for us to share who our female UX roles models are. Who are the women that inspire you in your UX work? Why?[/B]

Your role models and heroes might not have ‘UX’ in their job title. They might be a well-known business leader with a customer focus, or they might be relatively unknown, lacking recognition for their valuable and inspiring difference. They don’t need to still be alive. Lots of people who I want to be more like sadly aren’t around anymore.

  • [B]Which women inspire you in your UX work or your design career?[/B]
  • [B]Who are the women who have made a difference to how we do things in our field?[/B]
  • [B]Which big events in our field’s history were driven by women?[/B]
  • [B]What is it about these women that you find inspiring?[/B]


Great idea @Lukcha !

The women who inspire me the most in UX are mostly those close to me- friends and colleagues past and present.

The woman who has had the biggest inspirational impact on my UX career to date would have to be my first UX manager and now friend. Her name is Ange and she empowers me and shows me that I can do absolutely anything in this world.

I’ve also always found Marie Curie to be incredibly inspiring. She was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize but also the first to win in two different fields. She was passionate, curious and driven- nothing got in her way. I know her work in radiation research eventually led to her death, but while she was alive nothing kept her from pursuing her dreams. She had two kids, her husband died, and she got caught up in a crazy scandal but it didn’t stop her.

There’s someone else I’d like to mention although its a man so it probably doesn’t count but hear me out… My favourite designer is the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. He built his whole career on empowering women- that was what drove his creations. His garments were designed to empower the wearer and bring out their inner strength and his runway shows completed the picture. He was also the first person to live stream a fashion show and it would have been successful if Lady Gaga hadn’t tweeted about it and crashed the entire thing! Lady Gaga is another amazing hero of mine too- she’s incredibly talented and is constantly evolving and reinventing herself but she’s also quite empathetic. I’ve seen multiple live interviews with her and underneath the crazy outfits is an actual person who gives a crap about making a difference. I respect that and I find it inspiring.

And lastly I think Wonder Woman deserves a mention. Why? Because I have a LEGO mini-figurine of her and she makes me smile.


They’re fantastic role models—thanks for sharing why, @ASHM =) It’s great to hear that Ange not only inspired you but is continuing to be a great mentor too.


Hey Luke, Great initiative.

We have some awesome women at SEEK who are passionate about equality day-to-day and have done some great things during our Hackathons. Sarah Redmond and Anna Kelk spearheaded Camp SEEK out of a hackathon which ran a week long program for high school girls interested in Tech. Emma Haslip started a hack to check for gendered words in job ads to encourage more female applicants. None of these ladies are specifically UX but still ladies in Tech doing awesome things.

There are so many women I see on Twitter promoting equality in UX, too many too name. A few that stand out are Jennifer Aldrich, Jessica Ivins and Jen Simmons.

I think many historical and influential women don’t get as much recognition than men - Ada lovelace, Grace Hopper, Ruth Ginsburg, Joan Clarke & The other Bletchley Park women etc.



This is awesome!
I feel like a bit of an edge case, because I don’t think I actually have very many female role modals at all (thinking on that, it’s kinda sad). Most of the work that I have done or courses I have taken etc have been majority male dominated, and therefore I tend to think about them more when I think role modals.

In terms of females, I feel really corny saying this, but my sister and my mum? My mother from her empathy and always trying to see all points of view and my sister because she’s been through so much. She’s a designer among many other talents and she does tend to do rather darker creative pieces. She doesn’t let others opinions put her down and continues to do what she loves, and the stuff she does is amazing.

I’ve also been helping out with some school code club activities and I would have to say, looking at the younger generations and the kind of work that they are learning and doing, especially the girls to break the bonds of “I shouldn’t do tech because it is a boys world”, it is quite inspirational. The fact that they are the ones to start ignoring the divide and just do it because they enjoy it, and even go against their parents sometimes in terms of suggested subjects. They are taking the leap of faith that it is an awesome direction to head in.


Thanks for the input, @Kayla_J_Heffernan and @Natalie_Eustace. I’ve added a few more interesting UXers to my Twitter lists. =)

​I’m glad that some of the names you mentioned get coverage through things like the Google logos. But they need to come to mind in conversations as easily and as commonly as the blokes do. It’s not that women didn’t do stuff, or there weren’t as many contributing, it’s that they aren’t properly recognised for the stuff they did do.

​Perhaps the benefit of having role models that you really know, like a sister or a mum, is that you get to know them at a depth that helps you work stuff out yourself? It’s not just inspiring, it’s also practical.

It sounds like you’re the one being a role model, Natalie. How good are code clubs! The girls and boys are lucky to have you there. That age (9-10yo) is a great mix of curious, articulate, honest and uninhibited.


Love reading these responses!

Regarding the question, “Who are the women that inspire you in your UX work? Why?” – I think that just every time I see a woman be a leader in their field, it’s really inspiring to me. (That’s not specifically about my UX work – I haven’t had any role models or women that I’ve been inspired by in the field of UX. Sad but true?)

Random women who inspire me: Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Lena Dunham, Kristina Karlsson (kikki.K), Gretchen Rubin (author), Garance Doré (blogger/photographer/illustrator), Jessica Walsh (designer/illustrator/art director), Natasha Lampard (founder/organiser of the Webstock conference in NZ), Lisa Messenger (founder/editor of Collective magazine), Elsie & Emma (creators of A Beautiful Mess).

Also, my first female nerd-friends, Michelle Park and Priya Singh, who both live in NZ. We’ve been to SXSW, Web Directions, Webstock, UX Book Club, and so many other nerd meetups… we’ve discussed code, encouraged each other, inspired each other.


I know Priya too! We’re both ex-SitePoint.


So so many - content strategy and accessibility especially have so many amazing thought leaders. I’ll put forward a few more names for the hat, some well known, others perhaps less so…

[B]Geri Coady - [/B]Designer & Illustrator. Helped prove that Accessible websites do not have to be boring - absolutely love what she did for http://simplyaccessible.com/
[B]Karen[/B] [B]McGrane[/B] - Wrote so many amazing articles, her books especially on content strategy got me thinking more about organising content.
[B]Susan Weinschenk[/B] - If you haven’t read “100 things every designer needs to know about people” then you should. If you have read it, you’ll know why her name is here :wink:


I saw Karen McGrane talk at Webstock last month, @Dean and I agree with you – she’s definitely inspiring.


If I take it back to the beginning it was the boss which introduced me to the world of UX that is probably the most influential. Previously I had been undertaking UX activities but I didn’t realise there was a whole discipline and world behind it (I was just doing the tasks I saw as important to get projects done). When I started working with, and eventually for Erin, she introduced me to UX and UXAustralia. It was then that I began to see more of UX as a field and it’s related fields. Erin also had a continued appreciation for UX which is not something that those of us who work outside of agencies and UX teams always get in the workplace.

Aside from that I could rattle off names, but really it changes for me all the time. I am inspired by new ideas, new ways of thinking, cool projects. I am lucky that we are in a community where there are many fabulous women who I can continually seek inspiration from.


I think it’s awesome and inspiring that two women – Donna Spencer and Maxine Sherrin – are at the heart of Australia’s two best web/UX conferences (UX Australia and Web Directions respectively). Both these women have a strong sense of who they are and what they want to do, and they just go out and do it. This isn’t to say it must have been easy, far from it. I’m sure they faced very many obstacles – their success demonstrates their tenacity and dedication.

I love how people like Alice Bartlett from the UK Government Digital Service and Sara Wachter-Boettcher are fighting to get us to see the real people faced with our designs (see, for example, Bin Your Select and [URL=“https://www.sarawb.com/2015/01/13/personal-histories/”]Personal Histories respectively).

I look up to my late grandmother, who survived the Great Depression and two world wars; brought up two children on her own; never drove a car but always walked or caught public transport; sewed all her own clothes; could master any cryptic crossword; and loved her (earlier deceased) husband like no-one else could.

Women working in gaming or blogging inspire me, because they get so hammered by misogynistic abuse and keep going.

Women who stand up for themselves in situations of family violence inspire me, because that is one of the most difficult things a person can ever do.

Women that nurture their children; help them feel loved; and raise them with solid values; inspire me, because parenting is a thankless but also incredibly important task.


You know what would be really nice? [B]If some more men posted here about women that inspire them…[/B]

throws down the gauntlet


Good shout on Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Content Everywhere was another brilliant book… and anybody who worked for GDS definitely deserve a pat on the back.


A massive thank you to everyone who has chipped in so far. =)

Three of my role models are:

  • Whitney Hess and her pleasure & pain blog
  • Elizabeth Churchill, Director of UX at Google
  • Gayna Williams, ‘If She Can I Can’ and former Director of CX at Microsoft

I’ve borrowed some of your comments for today’s blog post on UX role models: http://uxmastery.com/courageous-determined-role-models/

Please give me a heads up if you’re not happy with how I’ve quoted you.