The design of current composite primary aerostructures, such as fuselage or wing stiffened panels, tends to be conservative due to the susceptibility of the relatively weak skin-stiffener interface. This weakness is due to through-thickness stresses which are exacerbated by deformations due to buckling. This paper presents a finite-element-based optimization strategy, utilizing a global-local modelling approach, for postbuckling stiffened panels which takes into account damage mechanisms which may lead to delamination and subsequent failure of the panel due to stiffener debonding. A genetic algorithm was linked to a finite element package to automate the iterative procedure and maximize the damage resistance of the panel in postbuckling. For a given loading condition, the procedure optimized the panel's skin layup leading to a design displaying superior damage resistance compared to non-optimized designs.