THE GLASS CEILING
WHY ARE THERE SO FEW FEMALE CREATIVE DIRECTORS?
Around 70 per cent of UK design students are women, but just 12 per cent of London creative directors are female. Here, five creatives reflect on the hurdles that female designers face...
HEIDI SHEPHERD Senior designer, GBH
“Women who display leadership qualities in the workplace are often labelled as mean and unlikeable. Women are told they should be nurturing, nice and altruistic. When we have these gender qualities engrained in us, it’s hard to brush them off. Recent campaigns like Ban Bossy have helped, but more needs to be done to allow women to display leadership qualities.”
KATH TUDBALL Design director, The Partners
“Many young women simply do not see creative careers as compatible with raising a young family, and are making early choices accordingly. The fact that the youngest women in our industry already feel that their future selves will not be able to reach leadership level because they might one day have a family is depressing and ambition crushing.”
OTEGHA UWAGABA Founder, Women Who
“I think it’s the result of systemic issues and male-dominated workplaces. It’s resulted in a scenario where women are conditioned to be happy with what they’ve got. One of the things I wanted to do with my Little Black Book [a handbook for working women] was shine a light on what you should be doing, what you should expect, and what you should be asking for.”
HELEN FUCHS Design director, ustwo
“A lot of business still happens at the pub. When you’re balancing a family, there’s not a lot of time for hanging out, and if you’ve got men making decisions on who to promote, outof-work relationships might come into play. I’ve benefitted from Women into Leadership, which holds people to account and encourages them to be ultra-transparent in how they hire.”
SAIRAH ASHMAN CEO, Wolff Olins
“It’s really hard to be what you can’t see. I don’t just mean that in a gender sense. When I was a lot younger, I’d look up at people in leadership positions and see the way they’d be forced to behave, and feel it didn’t represent who I was or wanted to be. There’s a job to be done championing different types of leadership and different types of role model.”