In this series we will be shining a spotlight on some of the inspiring women who are breaking down barriers, leading by example, and paving the way for the future of women in the creative industries. There are so many incredible women that are changing the world for creatives, and we wish we could shout about them all - this list rounds up just a few of our top picks of women in the creative industry.
Did you know that more females than males study creative subjects, but a smaller proportion of women go into creative jobs after their studies?
Despite creative arts degree courses being more appealing to female students, a higher proportion of male creative arts graduates actually go on to work in the sector, and this has been a consistent trend over the past five years. According to the most recent data, 40.6% of male creative graduates were employed in the creative industries within six months after graduation - compared to only 30.3% of their female counterparts.
However, the proportion of female creatives entering creative occupations is now at its highest in the past five years and the gender gap has narrowed slightly, though it still clearly exists. So, why is this?
Creative directors are overwhelmingly male and a survey by the Young Creative Council revealed the following about young female creatives:
88% feel they lack role models
70% have never worked with a female creative director or executive creative director.
This empoWOMENt series aims to spread awareness about the amazing women who are working hard to break these statistics in the creative industry. We will be shining a light on these women, in hopes to give them the recognition they deserve and inspiring the next generation of businesswomen.
Abigail & Chloe Baldwin - Directors of Buttercrumble
Buttercrumble is a creative studio formed by twin sisters, Chloe and Abigail Baldwin. They are a Yorkshire-born, twin-founded studio partnering with fun-finders and beauty-seekers globally. They help community-sensitive and family-focussed organisations express themselves through the power of graphic design, illustration and emotionally-driven branding. Their expertise in these areas helps them set up businesses for magic. From engaging storytelling to unmissable identities, they breathe life into organisations by embodying the true fun of the business.
Self-expression helps them connect and navigate through life and their designs are aimed to bring this to your business. Their main purpose is to help people realise their ideas and ensure you’re confident in expressing your vision - and they’re there to bring that vision to life.
Their efforts to help other businesses through their creativity haven’t gone unnoticed and they were named Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2020 Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
Alex Mahon - CEO of Channel4
Alex Mahon is the CEO of Channel 4 the British public-service television broadcaster.
Alex was also the former CEO of Foundry the leading design and visual and 3D effects software firm from 2015-2017 under its ownership by Hg Capital. The Foundry is at the heart of the creative industries and technology sectors in London making software for the virtual reality, design and entertainment industries.
Before Alex moved into technology she spent 15 years running creative production companies with a focus on high-growth, international and entrepreneurial businesses. She was CEO of Shine Group which she joined in 2006 and with partners built the group through M&A and organic growth into an organisation with 27 creative labels in 12 countries, and brands including MasterChef, Biggest Loser, Broadchurch, Spooks & The Bridge. Prior to this, she had a career in media across Europe, at Talkback Thames, FremantleMedia Group and RTL Group.
Alex is a true example of what women can achieve in their careers - and she continues to expand on her success.
Dame Donna Langley-Shamshiri - Chairwoman of Universal Pictures
As Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG), Donna Langley is responsible for the global creative strategy and business operations for the motion picture group. In this role, she oversees the production, marketing and distribution of film and television content across Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation (DWA), Focus Features, Universal Pictures International and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Under Langley’s strategic vision, Universal has been a consistent leader in the theatrical marketplace as the studio has successfully expanded and reinvigorated its core franchises including Fast & Furious, How to Train Your Dragon, Jurassic World, the Bourne series, Pitch Perfect, Despicable Me as well as Fifty Shades, Mamma Mia, Ride Along, and The Purge, and so much more.
Prior to being named sole Chairman of UFEG, in 2019, Langley has served as Chairman of Universal Pictures since 2013 where she engineered a strategic slate of all-audience tentpoles, breakthrough comedies, and pop-culture hit horror films that resulted in four years of record global profit and the two most profitable years in the studio’s 107-year history.
Emma Blake Morsi - Founding Editor-in-Chief of Nocturnal Magazine
Emma Blake Morsi is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Nocturnal, an interactive magazine using the Arts to creatively address social and cultural issues. The biannual publication is a collection of digital stories as an authentic voice for young Creatives to showcase their obsessions and creatively express themselves through the Arts.
Juggling her undergraduate studies at the University of Manchester, Emma has returned from a year in Germany as the Global Sportstyle Creative Direction intern for PUMA following her nomination as The 2018 Tab Futures 100 Influential Women @ UK Universities. She was also awarded 2017 UK Apprentice Of The Year for her work with Bristol’s first womxn record label, Saffron Records as well as taking on invaluable opportunities within Rising Arts Agency.
She has achieved great success since her time at university and is creating a safe space for other young creatives to do the same.
Jade Sammour - Founder of Dainty London
Dainty London was founded in 2018 by Jade, a former nurse and busy mum of two. Starting at her kitchen table, Jade’s first creation was a necklace to complete a new outfit. Fast forward a few years and Dainty London now has nearly 130 pieces in its range, has been featured at London Fashion Week, is stocked by a range of independent retailers and has been named a must-have in publications such as British Vogue and Tatler.
Dainty London was built to make everyone empower their individual style with our unique and feminine jewellery. Each piece tells a story, it’s not just precious metal and gemstone.
In such a short time Dainty London is a Multi-Award winning jewellery brand, winning the “Emerging Jewellery Brand of the year” UK Jewellery Awards 2021, winner of the “Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the year” Great British Entrepreneur Awards and “Best Jewellery Store in Essex” 2021 with the Muddy Stilettos Awards.
Jane Tranter & Julie Gardner - Founders of Bad Wolf
Bad Wolf was founded by Jane and Julie in 2015 to create ambitious, imaginative and relevant drama for the global TV marketplace. From its headquarters in South Wales, the company has built up an international reputation as one of the foremost independent production companies in the UK, producing over 50 hours of high-end drama for broadcasters and networks including HBO, BBC, AMC and Sky.
Bad Wolf is making a mark on the UK and US TV markets from its base in South Wales. Having originally brought Russell T Davies’ rebooted Doctor Who to Cardiff, Tranter and Gardner have helped revolutionise Wales’ creative industry. Since their founder, their success has allowed them to relocate to and open a second in Los Angeles.
Jo Ham - Founder of Hammade
Hammade is the brainchild of artist and illustrator Jo Ham who gained a BFA in Fine Art with a specialism in anatomy from Oxford University’s Ruskin School of Art. She formed her eponymous studio in 2011 and has since exhibited with Liberty, Mother, Billy Name, Topshop and Colette. In addition, she has created bespoke artwork for The Body Shop, Mini, Moncler, Eurostar and Nike.
Jo’s work seeks to celebrate the everyday. Informed by her studies and early career in design, she has always been fascinated by popular culture and uses Rabbits to shine a light on life’s simple pleasures - in particular how we interact with one another through work and play. The resulting social commentary creates HAM’s happy world, where our daily rituals, likes and hobbies are immortalised in print for all to enjoy.
In 2018, Jo was awarded NatWest’s Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year and the Aviva Women of the Future Arts and Culture Prize - and she continues to achieve great things today.
Julie Deane CBE - CEO of Cambridge Satchel Company
Julie Deane CBE set up The Cambridge Satchel Company with her mother in 2008. Aiming to raise enough money to move her daughter from a school where she was being bullied to a new school, she came up with the idea to make traditional leather satchels for the schoolchildren of Cambridge. She invested just £600 to get The Cambridge Satchel Company off the ground from her kitchen table. The company now employs more than 140 people selling to over 120 countries. In January 2014, the company raised $21m from Index Ventures.
The brand has gone on to do amazing collaborations with prestigious designers and retailers including Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garcons, Christopher Shannon and Chris Benz, and we have seen The Cambridge Satchel Company grace catwalks from London to New York. The bags have appeared in shows including Girls, The Good Wife and Gossip Girl and on the shoulders of celebrities including Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Alexa Chung.
As well her brand’s success Julie is a huge supporter of entrepreneurship, British style and British manufacturing and in 2021 was awarded her CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing.
Kai Lutterodt - Founder and Editor of My Soho Times & Creative Director at Diversity Matters
Kai is the founder of My Soho Times (and My London Times), which began life as a blog in 2012 (re-branded in 2015, and eventually launched as a print & online magazine in 2019) for her general ramblings about being a millennial living in the heart of London. Soho’s eccentric community has been shaping Kai’s outlook for the past 17 years, and though it took a while to find her calling in the community she has stepped out of the shadows to be an influential part of her community My Soho Times is a brand new hyper-local lifestyle magazine focused on Soho and surrounding areas, with the aim of the magazine being to promote local businesses, services and voices of local people!
Kai has also ventured into founding Diversity Matters, the multi-dimensional awareness platform, set up to promote diversity in learning and work environments, by challenging the lack of representation of creatives and academics from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
She is showing women that they can do whatever they want in the business world!
Liv Little - Founder of gal-dem
Gal-dem is a new media publication, committed to telling the stories of people of colour from marginalised genders. With an online and print magazine, they’re addressing inequality and misrepresentation in the industry through platforming the creative and editorial work of their community across essays, opinions, news, arts, music, politics and lifestyle content.
Liv founded gal-dem whilst at university after being frustrated with the lack of diversity around her. The gal-dem team now consists of more than 70 women of colour, most of whom are based in the UK but with others in countries around the world - and within their first year of production Liv was listed in the BBC’s 100 Women - she truly is paving the way for women of all backgrounds.
Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid - Creative Director, Filmmaker & Photographer & Founder of Cozy Global
Mahaneela is a multi-faceted artist, who at a young age explored her love for photography and filmmaking. Coming from a long lineage of visual and musical artists on both sides of her family, her work takes inspiration from her multi-cultural background and the storytelling of diasporic history across South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa.
Over the last few years, the director/photographer has created content for some of the most influential and exciting brands in the world, such as Nike, Google, Apple, and Meta, as well as working with prominent record labels, and famous artists such as FKA Twigs, Steve Lacy, and Wizkid, just to name a few.
She is also the Co-founder of COZY GLOBAL the full-service creative studio to deliver authentic storytelling through the community.
Sandy Verdon - Creative Director of Hobbs
Originally from Yorkshire, Sandy Verdon studied fashion and textiles before beginning her career at Next, designing knitwear and accessories, before moving into designing menswear, and collaborating with Tricia Guild for the first ever Next interiors collection.
Moving to London in 1989, Sandy joined French Connection as design director, working alongside Nicole Farhi. During this time she also worked as a freelance consultant to a number of Far Eastern companies and with the New York retailer Barneys on knitwear and home products.
In 2000 Sandy joined Jaeger as design director, being promoted to creative director after eight years with the company. She joined Hobbs as creative director in January 2008 and is now responsible for the future vision and creative direction of the brand.
Hobbs has since become the destination of choice for classic, stylish women’s clothing and footwear with a modern twist - and Sandy’s creative direction continues to take Hobbs to new levels.
Sharon Whale - CEO of OLIVER Agency
As part of Sharon Whale’s leadership style, she champions a ‘people-first’ culture. This has led to OLIVER being named #40 Best Large Companies to Work for in the UK on The Sunday Times 100 list. Similarly, from 2021 to 2022, the agency has seen an incredible 35% growth year on year, and during her time as CEO, she has led the agency to £100 million in net revenue and over 4000 people worldwide.
In furthering OLIVER’s cause of simplifying the complex by designing, building and running bespoke in-house marketing agencies, Sharon has propelled the agency to new heights. And as we enter a new decade, she is keen to build upon OLIVER’s foundations by building stronger client relationships and delivering effective, results-driven content.
She is a true powerhouse, and her efforts and skills haven’t gone unnoticed as she was awarded Creative Industries Businesswoman of the Year at the 2021 Great British Businesswomen Awards. She was also awarded Female Frontier’s ‘CEO of the Year’ this year.
Sophie Deen - Founder & CEO of Bright Little Labs
Bright Little Labs is a kids media company that makes entertaining purpose-driven content and products for kids aged 3-11. They use stories to teach coding alongside other 21st-century skills like creativity, critical thinking, empathy, spotting fake news, staying safe online, surviving the apocalypse, and the power of a good emoji.
Before starting Bright Little Labs Sophie worked alongside Code Club, Google and the Department for Education to introduce the computing curriculum intro primary schools in England, and that’s where her love of tech really grew. As a former lawyer, techie and children’s play therapist she is passionate about creative education and positive role models for kids.
Her work towards paving the way for younger generations is inspiring and has been acknowledged by many - winning a number of awards and accolades, including; Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, London Tech Week ‘Changemaker’ in 2018, and many more.
Sophie Miller - Founder of Pretty Little Marketer
Sophie Miller is a freelance social media manager, and the founder of Pretty Little Marketer, working with brands such as Frasers Group, Graze.com, Kraft Heinz, Lounge Underwear, The Masked Singer and much more.
After 2 years in a job where she felt her potential was limited and creativity was killed, she began the hunt for a job or industry to reignite excitement and discovered the world of marketing.
In a bid to follow her heart she set up shop and began her adventure to achieve her dreams by studying for a degree in marketing, advertising and branding - whilst studying she founded Pretty Little Marketer, which now has an online following of 180k. Her Linkedin is well known for sharing inspiring content around marketing, tips and tricks for freelancers, and is known by many as the bible of freelance marketing. She also offers online courses that allow others to learn about how she is helping take brands to the next level.
LinkedIn queen Sophie has seen huge success on the platform since starting her business during the pandemic. If you haven’t yet seen Sophie’s LinkedIn posts yet then where have you been?!
This list of women in the creative industries are true changemakers, breaking boundaries and paving the way for the future of female creatives.
Are you a businesswoman making changes, with a story to tell? Why not enter this year’s Great British Businesswoman Awards, and let us celebrate you and your achievements - enter here.
You can also nominate someone you know, who deserves to be shouted about - nominate here.