Doctoral Dissertation: Factors Affecting the Career Development of Female Graphic Designers


Around the world, there are not as many women in the workforce as there are men. This reality also holds true in the field of graphic design (GD). The fact that women usually excel in their studies but are not equally well represented in the job market has drawn particular attention. MA Yue Zhao explores the lower status of female graphic designers in the workforce as compared with males and the possible reasons for this situation.

In general, the reasons for women’s lower social status have been identified in the gender context in terms of social contexts, gender stereotypes, education and the work environment, and recruitment and retention. Zhao’s research increases our knowledge of women’s GD career process and brings insights into the interrelationships and functions of multiple factors behind it.

Three factors influencing career development

In her study, Zhao investigated four aspects: professional skills, psychological characteristics, self-evaluation, and the backgrounds and surrounding influences among GD students, designers, entrepreneurs, and educators.

The author focused on three factors affecting the career development of female graphic designers. First, there is the special nature of the GD profession and the GD market. Second, psychological factors hinder women’s career development. Third, the influence of culture on the career development of women is broad and far-reaching.

– The results of the study can help female GD students and designers to become more aware of the challenges of their career development, Zhao points out.

The study provides suggestions to educators and institutions for improving women’s competitiveness in the developing international GD market. Zhao also offers suggestions for future research to improve the status of female designers.

The combined influence of internal and external factors

Zhao’s study describes the career process of female graphic designers under the influence of external factors and their own growth.
– Psychological characteristics are internal factors, while culture – including gender culture, social culture and family culture – are external factors that simultaneously affect women’s lives and occupations. All these factors intertwine and affect one another, Zhao explains.

Zhao builds her study on a comparative approach and surveys conducted in Europe (Finland) and Asia (China). She brings micro and macro insights into how the influencing factors work on the career process of female graphic designers. Also, she compares the internal and external, objective and subjective, and conscious and subconscious in a context involving a large variety of social and cultural backgrounds.

Information on the Defence

By permission of the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland, Yue Zhao will be defending her dissertation “Factors Affecting the Career Development of Female Graphic Designers” , on the 12th of March 2021 at 9:00 a.m. The opponent is Prof. Dr. Markus Schröppel from the HMKW University of Applied Sciences for Media, Communication and Management, Cologne, Germany. The custos is Prof. Emerita Riitta Brusila, Faculty of Art and Design, University of Lapland.

The public defence will be held in English and it can be followed online at https://connect.eoppimispalvelut.fi/vaitos

Information about the Candidate

Yue Zhao has an academic and practice background in graphic design and graphic design education. Born in China, she studied visual communication design at Shandong University of Art and Design and was awarded a master’s degree in strategic design by Shandong University of Arts. Zhao is an associate professor at Shandong Women’s University and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Lapland.

Zhao has rich experience in the field of visual communication design. For the last ten years or so, she has worked as a graphic designer, creative director, and design strategist in advertisement agencies and received many awards in professional competitions. She also has more than ten years’ experience in graphic design education.

All this has served as her source of motivation in conducting the doctoral research. Zhao’s research interests include visual communication, occupation-related gender issues, education-related gender issues, and visual communication in the context of culture.

Further information

Yue Zhao, yzhao (at) ulapland.fi

Information on the publication

Yue Zhao: Factors Affecting the Career Development of Female Graphic Designers. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 289. ISBN 978-952-337-226-9. ISSN 1796-6310. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2021.

The publication is available at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-226-9