Designing a level playing field

With the Women's World Cup underway, the power of inclusive design is evident

Katie Walmsley

Creative Director of Technology and Experience Household


“Never stop dreaming!”

Words of encouragement from female England footballer, Nikita Parris, to any young Lioness fan following last year’s inspiring victory at the Euros. Fast forward to a temperate UK summer, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has kicked off and a new era of women’s sport is back. Millions of young fans are thrilled to watch their new-found heroes and this feels like a significant milestone. A time to get your head in the game and celebrate a cultural event that begins to bridge the gap across the invisible gender bias.

Yet, visualise a world where your boots don’t quite fit so you’re more likely to get a serious injury, where every week hours of work are not recognised or remunerated. One where doctors prescribe drugs that are wrong for your anatomy and physiology, where your biology is niche and not the default. Welcome to 2023, where we live in a world that is still largely designed and built by men, for men.

Women can move their own goal posts

The conversations are evolving about gender bias and a welcomed shift in consumer focus is undeniable. 17.4 million people tuned into the UEFA Women’s Euro final - the most-watched television event of the year in 2022, with another 5.9 million streaming the match on digital platforms.

I’m hopeful again the media will be flooded with our Lionesses’ words and actions but the reality is, we are battling against years of limited women’s athletic investment and lack of amplification, articulated beautifully by Megan Rapinoe, American international footballer and LGBT+ activist: ‘You would never expect a flower to bloom without water, but women in sport have been denied water, sunlight and soil, and are still expected to blossom’.

Girls and women, fuelled by tenacity, resilience and sheer determination to be visible and considered are driving change across categories, beyond sport.

Katie Walmsley, Creative Director of Technology and Experience, Household

Perceptions are, however, changing. There’s an appetite to celebrate inclusion and solidarity. Fans are eager to engage with women’s football and 2022 saw a record-breaking year for match attendance at women’s football in England. Fans are hopeful that this momentum will build, nurturing the hope that when girls and women play, society benefits too.

Girls and women, fuelled by tenacity, resilience and sheer determination to be visible and considered are driving change across categories, beyond sport. They are breaking down societal barriers and drawing attention to that which still protects the gender gaps across pay, data, knowledge, and crucially, design. Fans are calling for brands to think beyond convention, to drive equality and level the playing field. To focus on ‘inclusive design’ and filling the deficit of female data and information when driving innovation.

Can fans reshape our world?

The next generation crave ‘inclusive first’ solutions and expect brands to actively represent and live out their values in a world that can feel divided and unbalanced. High expectations combined with an exploratory mindset and activist heart drive their need to question everything and to find purpose and fuel positive solutions which support a world fit for all.

76% of Gen Z feel diversity and inclusion are critical topics to address to achieve authenticity and progress. Brands have a responsibility to champion good design, and quality creative plays an essential role in promoting social inclusion, especially when we tailor our innovation around real people, with diverse human needs.

Consider PUMA and the leak-proof apparel company Modibodi® collaboration which replaces the need for disposable pads, liners and tampons for menstruating athletes. The shocking statistic that 1 in 2 teens skip sport due to fear of leaking or revealing their period has no place in an inclusive world that is striving to be better. As changemakers, PUMA are working hard to normalise menstruation and tackle the stigma and the misconception women can't be active on their periods.

One size does not fit all

As Susan Goltsman, founding principal of MIG Inc. suggests ‘inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people, you’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging’.  From Nike’s new Phantom Luna the ‘most innovative and researched women’s-led boot’ to Under Armour and Adidas pioneering sports bra technology for all body sizes, followed by Wimbledon revealing that are finally relaxing the rigid all-white dress code for menstruating athletes this year  - change is happening. It’s a great start to see pioneering brands in the sports sector leading the way, but … there’s still a way to go. The 360-degree experience for all women in sport is lagging far behind that of a man.

At Household, we believe ‘creativity is our greatest tool for change’ and we drive this mindset into all our thinking. Whatever the sector, arena, or challenge,  across all facets of life, every brief should tackle inclusivity.

Brands that actively elevate inclusion and diversity by empowering their community and proactively seeking feedback, see huge growth and success - just look at Dove. As innovators and creative thinkers, I urge you to challenge the scope, think holistically, build a network of diverse thinkers, integrate wider data points, and most importantly do not simply look to find a single creative solution. One size does not fit all.

Guest Author

Katie Walmsley

Creative Director of Technology and Experience Household


Katie Walmsley is a highly seasoned and fearless creative marketing leader with more than 12 years of technology-focused design experience. She currently serves as Creative Director of Technology and Experience at Household, a creative agency specialising in experience-led design. Leading the experience team, Katie works with its clients to think progressively throughout the design process from ideation to implementation. She supports where brands need provocative and future-thinking design to rise to fame. Prior to Household, Katie worked within the WPP network evolving technology ecosystems and designing rich brand experiences within FMCG, beauty, and technology sectors. Katie is also passionate about collaborating with clients to achieve sustainable and impactful growth, having just graduated from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability, she continues to drive innovation and build creative solutions for the challenges of tomorrow.