What Is The Women In Lighting Project?

Below is a conversation* between Vectorworks and the founders of Women in Lighting. Martin Lupton and Sharon Stammers. The duo are also the co-founders of Light Collective, an organization committed to filming, celebrating, marketing, designing, making, sharing, and documenting light.

At LDI2021 in November 2021, lighting designer extraordinaire Anne Militello presented her 'History of Women In Lighting' session under the banner of Women In Lighting, and LDI/Live Design looks forward to supporting this initiative on an on-going basis. 

Related reading:

Militello’s Women In Lighting Session Packed With Industry Icons


Vectorworks: What’s the Women in Lighting project?

Martin Lupton: The Women in Lighting project celebrates and raises the profile of women working in the lighting industry around the world. The project started off in architectural lighting, but many of the architectural lighting professionals we know are inspired by all lighting design forms and all lighting practices. So, there's also a really appealing cross-pollination into other areas of lighting design.

Sharon Stammers: Basically the objective was to encourage and improve the diversity of the lighting industry. It’s also become more than a website; it’s a massive network of international community, with all sorts of initiatives happening locally.

VW: How Did Women in Lighting start?

SS: In 2017 we made a film called The Perfect Light. We’re not filmmakers, so it was quite a big learning curve. The film is about LED lights and how the industry has moved over the last 20 years into only using LED lights. We interviewed 25 lighting designers from different countries, and then we showed the film around the world. We showed the film in New York. After the showing, a group of designers came up to us and said, ‘We loved your film, but where were the women in it?

We asked 19 men and four women. We didn’t give any thought to it. We just picked people we thought would be best to speak on the subjects we wanted them to speak on, but we realized we had been the victim of our own unconscious bias. So, we took a look at lots of different conferences, their judges, and their speakers to see if there was a similar bias.

The results were alarming. In one conference, in fact, there were something like 41 male speakers and one female speaker. And we knew from other data that about 50% of architectural lighting designers are women, so we felt this imbalance needed to be addressed. 

We launched the project on International Women’s Day in 2019. When we started, we had the initial plan to do 12 interviews and about 20 ambassadors in different countries to help us spread the word. Now, three years later, we have something like 160 interviews on our website and ambassadors in 75 different countries!

VW: What kinds of events and activities does Women in Lighting put on?

SS: Our website is an archive of lots of different interviews, half of which are interviews that we've gone out and done ourselves. The other half are either text-based or videos that women have uploaded themselves.

ML: Last year, during lockdown, we did a one-day event for International Women’s Day. We called it the Global Gathering, and it was essentially a one-day virtual conference. We started it off at 6:00 am in the UK and went to 7:00 pm UK time to encourage participation from people in all time zones. Throughout our day, we shifted focus from Asia Pacific to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. Some people stayed the whole day through, and others jumped in and out.

We ran the event alongside a social networking feature. You’d get randomly matched with another person for three minutes, and then you’d get paired with someone else. You got to talk to random lighting people from around the world who you may or may not have known. 

We hosted this event for the third time on International Women’s Day this year too.

VW: What’s next for Women in Lighting?

ML: We would love the project to connect with other lighting design areas outside of the architectural market like light art, lighting for theater, and lighting for events.

Nowadays, there's a lot of crossover in techniques and even equipment. I hope we can expand in all these different areas and continue sharing the inspiration and the achievements.

SS: Like Martin said, design technology has merged over the years. We've gotten closer and closer and closer. It would be a really amazing goal to have a bit more alignment, discussion, and networking with those design worlds, like entertainment, that run along in parallel.

VW: How can Vectorworks support Women in Lighting?

SS: Vectorworks came to us and expressed an interest in the project, and you asked how you could be involved. Really, it seemed that the most helpful thing you could do is help introduce the project to women and men working with Vectorworks software.

Click here to sign up for Women in Lighting emails or join the project. A friendly reminder, too, that you don’t have to be a woman to support this great cause. 

* Originally published on Planet Vectorwoks