Towards a Feminist Pedagogy
: A Qualitative Study into How the Lived Experiences of Women Working in the Field of Commercial Interior-design can Inform a Framework for Transforming the Teaching of Professional Practice in Interior-design Education in the UK

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research project sets out to explore whether feminist pedagogy can provide an improved framework with which to teach professional practice for interior design within Higher Education in the UK. It has the explicit aim of supporting women’s efforts to revalue and thereby improve their workplace cultures. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 women, exploring their lived experience of collectively working in 34 commercial interior- design practices with the aim of understanding the barriers and challenges created by workplace cultures. Before the expansion of vocational post-92 education (Department for Education and Employment, 1998; Furlong, 2013), commercial interior-design practice was largely masculine-dominated (Reimer, 2016). Change came with an increase in the number of interior- design degree courses in the UK. This new wave of educational opportunities saw women attracted to the subject and had the effect of professionally feminising the sector (Belis et al., 2014; Emert, 2010; Lykens, 2013; Milligan, 2007). Interior design is often defined as marginalised because it is acknowledged with a conventional feminised identity based on socially constructed conceptions of domesticity and taste (Sparke, 1995). Interior design has been disparaged by others in the construction industry as “inferior design” (Havenhand, 2004; 2019). Many interior-design courses in the UK sit within schools of architecture, adopting the pedagogies of architectural design education, which still draw heavily on Schön’s (1985) notion of “reflection-in-action” as a tool for educating professionals. Clegg (1999) asserts that Schön’s (1985) framework for reflective practice which, for architecture, looks solely at the teaching of the design process, is gender biased. Therefore, accepting this point, I argue that the framework used by Schön cannot adequately represent the experience of women in undertaking education that prepares them for interior-design professional practice. The
introduction of a feminist pedagogic framework (Clegg, 1999; Crabtree, Sapp, Licona, 2009; Cunningham et al., 1999; Freire, 2014), would promote empowerment (personal and collective), community building (in the workplace), and leadership (within the profession) from a feminist position. I link this directly to the findings of the research undertaken as part of this thesis. This approach has the potential to have a positive impact on the education of the predominantly female interior-design cohort within the otherwise male-dominated context of the construction industry. My research will contribute to addressing discriminatory workplace conditions, as they affect women, and will familiarise future intakes of female workers in the design profession with the difficulties they can often face. This should help provide new- generation design industry cohorts with the conceptual understanding needed to challenge negative conditions they might encounter within the design sector (McRobbie, 2016; Watts, 2007). Sexism, sexual harassment in the workplace, contractual unfairness, equality of opportunity, ethnic and cultural diversity and the gender pay gap remain matters of urgent political, economic and social concern in the UK (Sanders et al., 2019). The clarification of these pressing issues is a prelude to addressing them effectively, and as such are as indirectly important to employers and other interested parties in the design sector as much as to the employees whom they directly affect.
Date of Award25 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorCharlotte Morris (Supervisor), Phevos Kallitsis (Supervisor) & Jane Creaton (Supervisor)

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