Memphis' Creative Works conference noted for speaker gender equality strides

By Published: January 08, 2019 11:53 PM CT

American Institute of Graphic Arts, a professional design association, has highlighted a Memphis creative conference for strides in the gender equality of its speakers.

AIGA published its findings in a Jan. 3 post on the organization’s “Eye on Design” website. According to its data, from 2017-2018, women spent time on the stage 46.4 percent of the time at Creative Works. During the same period, Creative Works had 46.7 percent women speakers, the data showed.

“Living in a city like Memphis, if you want to attract more people of color, you have to put more people of color on stage,” said Creative Works founder Josh Horton. “If you want to attract more women, you have to put more women on stage.”

The survey includes 30 visual communication and design conferences around the world. AIGA said that the list is not meant to be exhaustive; instead the sample is based on conferences “Eye on Design” has attended or covered and that the organization believes its readers would attend, large-scale conferences deemed important industry events and a list that presents a global overview.

“I think it’s fantastic we were included in that lineup,” Horton said. “The conferences on the bottom of that list have been around for a long time and have a huge following. I feel honored to be on that list.”

AIGA counted speaker lineups, not including workshop and lab leaders, jury members or exhibitors. The list includes conferences with 10 speakers all the way up to conferences with more than 200.

Men, AIGA noted, were more likely to speak independently, versus women who were given more opportunities to speak in pairs or groups that included men.

The industry has to make strides to be more inclusive of racial and ethnic minorities, too, AIGA said. Since the industry’s conferences generally do not survey speakers for identity, AIGA found the data pool too limited to provide that breakdown, it said.

“Living in a city like Memphis, if you want to attract more people of color, you have to put more people of color on stage. If you want to attract more women, you have to put more women on stage.”
Josh Horton, Creative Works founder 

Horton created Creative Works in 2014. The conference includes workshops, talks, afterparties and dinners. He says it’s not just for “people pushing pixels around.” Instead, Creative Works is for anyone who creates or makes or is asked to think differently for a living.

“That’s who’s on stage,” Horton said.

Sixty-five percent of attendees come from outside of Memphis, according to Horton. Last year, Creative Works attracted more than 500 people, including attendees, volunteers and people shopping in the marketplace.

On April 4-5, Creative Works is hosting its first Skill Camp. The two-day workshop includes five skill tracks and 16 hours of instruction, with 30 participants per track. It is designed to help people grow skills and develop a peer group.

One of the keynote speakers will be Gail Anderson. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum awarded Anderson its 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.


Josh Horton Creative Works Gail Anderson AIGA
Elle Perry

Elle Perry

Elle Perry covers arts and culture and other news for the Daily Memphian. She is a native of Memphis and a two-time graduate of the University of Memphis. Elle previously worked for the Memphis Business Journal and has written for publications including The Memphis Flyer and High Ground News.

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