While the needle is moving in the right direction, the lack of women at the top of the creative tree is still a huge problem for the creative industries: as of 2014 only 13% of women occupied creative director roles.
In an attempt to inspire the next generation of creative leaders, creative networking platform The Dots asked women making waves in the creative industries for advice, woman to woman. Leaders in fashion, advertising, illustration, tech, film, arts and social enterprise shared some candid words of wisdom for future creative leaders.
Perfect your craft
Never stop learning – soak up the new – whether you’re an art director, graphic designer or producer. Ali Hannah, creative director at Blippar and founder of Creative Equals says: “Like a good athlete, flex your creative muscles every day. Hone your skills, perfect your craft, and sharpen up your book until you think it’s perfect. Even now, I’m always learning, so think you’re always in beta.”
Work outside your comfort zone
Emma Perkins, executive creative director at MullenLowe Open and co-creator of Token Man, an initiative to give men a better understanding of the challenges women face in the industry, is an advocate of doing things outside your comfort zone. “The scariest things I’ve put myself forward for have been the best things,” she says.
Surround yourself with positive people
Positivity breeds positivity. Gemma Greaves, managing director of The Marketing Society and the first female president of the Solus Club highlights this as a crucial way of achieving your goals: “Surround yourself with people who make you better and complement you – those who radiate energy. Always avoid the drains.”
Work for people you respect
Even the most desirable places to work can become competitive. Holly Hay, photographic editor of AnOther magazine, has a great solution for overcoming this: “Work for people you respect and make yourself indispensable.”
Be your own boss
One way to carve your own niche in the creative industries is to start your own business. That’s what Kathryn Parsons, co-CEO of Decoded did. She says: “Entrepreneurship is a huge focus for my creativity. Dreaming up ideas and making them a reality in the world. I am excited to see a growing wave of female entrepreneurs, imagining how they might make a difference in the world, and manifesting that creativity through the medium of business.”
Harriet Vine, who co-founded British jewellery Tatty Devine with Rosie Wolfenden, who both recently received MBE’s for their Services to the Fashion Industry, shared some fantastic advice for creative entrepreneurs: “Never wait for permission. Work with a friend to share your dreams with, do what you want, not what you should do.”
Know your worth
It’s important not forget your own worth. Melanie Eusebe, a board member of the Creative Industries Federation and founder of The Black British Business Awards reiterats this. “This industry is famous for unpaid work and low wages at entry. Apprenticeships and interning may be necessary when starting out, but be sure that you are getting something from it and that you teach yourself how to negotiate for what you want,” she says.
Network like crazy
It comes naturally to some, and is like pulling teeth for others. Either way, getting yourself out there is the most important way of creating opportunities. Jane Scherbaum, deputy head of Design at the V&A: “Build your profile, your network and your portfolio. Never think Why?, ask yourself Why not?”. Go forth and network, you never know what might come out of it.
Find a role model
Women today are fortunate to be following in the footsteps of pioneers before them. Nadra Shah, director of culture at The House of St Barnabas, says we should all “find a role model and watch, listen and emulate”. There are plenty of women out there, so find one and even approach them for mentorship.
Break the mould
It’s all well and good looking for role models for inspiration, but in an increasingly fast moving world it’s important to carve your own niche, especially in male dominated industries such as advertising. Cindy Gallop, advertising legend, entrepreneur and activist puts it brilliantly: “You don’t want to have to ‘break into’ the industry. You want to reinvent the industry so you can own it.”
Support the next generation
As we climb the ladder, we all have a responsibility to support the next generation of talent. Kate Dale, strategic lead of brand and digital at Sport England and the force behind multi-award winning campaign This Girl Can, sums this up perfectly: “Support other women and once you’ve started climbing the ladder, reach down and give those below you a hand up. Be generous with your interest, time and expertise; you’ll be someone people want to work with.”
Pip Jamieson is an entrepreneur and founder of creative professional networking site The Dots.
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