Erica Fite discusses women and design at "Respect Me" opening.

I was honored to be part of a panel at the opening of the fantastic Respect Me design show, at 16 Orchard Street, last week.

“Respect Me” is the fifth in a series of annual design shows created and curated by Krystal Persaud of Grouphug. Krystal, a designer for littleBits, was tired of seeing a bunch of furniture designs at NYCxDesign week. This inspired her to create a show exploring something she felt passionate about: design that tackles social issues.

Every year, these shows take on a different subject. This year’s show is all about female empowerment and revolves around the truth that women are historically disrespected. As a result, they’re paid less, underrepresented in almost every industry, subject to harassment, and not guaranteed reproductive rights. The show features 30 creations by a collective of global designers. Work ranges from market-ready products to futuristic product concepts. 

A couple of my favorites at the show were Solace, beautifully designed women’s birth control packaging because it’s time that birth control comes out of hiding and gets a makeover! And another that I’ve been familiar with for a while, the stylish and convenient Vesper vibrator necklace from Crave (gotta get one of those soon)! Both make so much sense, you wonder why they haven’t been around for years.

The opening drew double the expected crowd and the gallery was squished with people for the panel discussion. Super-interesting relevant questions ranged from how #MeToo and similar movements have an effect on the design industry to how to survive and thrive if you are the only woman at a law firm. Attendees couldn't believe that when I co-founded Fancy in 2011, only 3% of creative directors were women. 

I learned a lot from my smart, witty panelist partners, Melissa Cullens, Chief Design Officer at Ellevest, Ronlee BenGal, Product Design Lead at theSkimm and Rachel Lifter, Assistant Professor, Fashion Studies at Parsons School of Design. All of whom are complete bad-asses in their fields and total forces to be reckoned with.

The panel discussion ended with the consensus that in order to push the industry forward women need to support other women. As I said on that evening, "men aren’t going to do it for us. What’s good for another woman is good for you too!" Applause all around.