Written byCreative Shift and Lizzie Reid, Careers and Employability
Published date13 March 2020
University of the Arts London (UAL) launched its first ever Future Women+ Leaders project in February, to inspire and empower women+ to break through the glass ceiling and become the creative leaders of the future. Led by Creative Shift who champion diversity in the creative industries, the programme was created in response to research showing that only 33% of Managers and 17% of Creative Directors in the cultural industries are women.
The 9 week project takes 10 students through a series of workshops led by JM Learning & Skills and includes a live brief from leading publishing company Raconteur.
UAL graduate Lizzie Reid has written a week by week break-down on what we've learnt about leadership so far...
In week 1 we engaged with each other in ways many of us didn’t expect.
To begin the nine-week journey of self-discovery and awareness, the students delved beneath the surface to discover their most random connections, share and establish their core values for the project and committed to challenging their confidence levels. Beginning by grading a selection of skills on a wheel will definitely prove telling by the end of these 9 weeks.
Through insightful and interactive workshops led by Consultant Trainer and Director of JM Learning, Jannett Morgan, the students will be learning first hand what it takes to be a leader by growing an understanding of the difference between management vs leadership and the statistics of women in leadership positions within the creative sector. The purpose of this course is to prepare us to address the issues facing our futures as women in an industry (like many others) where women are systematically underrepresented and undervalued.
Our first guest leader was African story-teller Griot Chinyere who got us on our feet to sing and shout our names, combining to make a magical and powerful rhythm. Through her expressive and meditative activities using our voices, bodies, music and trust exercises, she enabled us to bond in a way most of us didn't expect, grounding us to the nine-week project we were about to embark on.
What a great way to start this journey!
In week 2 we met Saigna Shabaya, the Head of Talent & Inclusion from Raconteur, who introduced us to the live brief the student's would be working on throughout the programme!
We got to hear Sagina’s career story, learn about Raconteur’s values and of course, all about the project students would be applying their leadership lessons, creativity and research skills to over the next eight weeks!
Raconteur are a Business to Business (B-B) content publishing house who produce thought leadership reports for the Times and Sunday Times. Over the next eight weeks, our students will work in teams to produce their own collaborative special reports to submit to Raconteur.
To break any tension in the room, Sagina shared Raconteur's expectation to see their reports:
address a business audience,
include the essentials of a Raconteur report (articles, an op-ed, adverts, illustration and graphics)
but through their own voices and with their own creative flair!
Split into themes of sustainability, diversity and inclusion and female leadership, the teams got their hands on a selection of published reports. Ideas, concepts and imaginations began to flow and job roles began to surface as our photographers, journalists, fashion marketers, jewellery designers, graphic designers, illustrators and 3D product designers adopted the new roles of report editors, writers, researchers, commissioners and designers.
The second half of the session was led by Roxanne Peters, UAL’s Intellectual Property Lecturer who explained how embedded our value is as people within the value of our creative intellectual properties. Find out more about IP.
Everyone is so excited to see the growth of the students’ recognition of their own potential as individuals as well as in their teams.
The shift was clear this week as students took on leadership positions as spaghetti tower architects and presenters!
Jannett Morgan began the session asking everyone to share how they honestly felt about joining this programme mid-year and their answers produced a perfectly balanced scale of emotions from overwhelm to excitement. This check-in activity will become familiar across the weeks to come to encourage a space based on honesty, transparency and vulnerability so that we can ensure every step is taken with purpose in the best direction.
Entering into a peer-mentoring-like session, everyone shared specific fears and everyone offered each other practical advice to manage and overcome them. It was a great reminder that they are all in this together, they all shared similar fears and that no fear had to be dealt with alone.
With a new found buzz of reassurance and motivation, it was time for the spaghetti tower challenge! In teams they used each other’s skills to work towards a collective goal to make the tallest tower with a marshmallow sitting on the top using only a line of tape and a piece of string. Swapping the role of Head Architect, the task was really to see and think about how they lead, how they work as a team player, how they delegated and where they could have been "even better if..."
Looking into Belbin’s 9 key roles in a team (1981), we could all identify which role we naturally take on and the difference between being a team vs a group.
The last task of the day was for the students to present their understanding of the Raconteur live brief to Janett. Practising conciseness and clarity, it gave everyone the opportunity to ask questions about each other’s projects and refine ideas of their own to take away and work towards.
The photo above is our week-four check-in! What a transformation! It has been incredible to be a part of and witness the power of such an open and trusting space between students, Creative Shift and Jannett Morgan.
Checking-in has been a great marker to celebrate the good, address the crucibles and develop solutions to move forward. Leadership Crucibles are difficult events that transform leaders into authentic leaders.
Networking was the major topic of this session. As everyone got comfortable introducing themselves to each other, it didn’t take long for conversations to start flowing and for connections to be found between practices, values and themes of work. As the conversations went on, the scripts became more relaxed and there was an acceptance that each conversation would differ whether that be the focus of the conversation from work to socio-political topics or the way the conversation organically flowed or needed more prompts.
Here are some of Jannett’s top tips for networking:
Never apologise for where you’re at. Celebrate who and where you are and what you’re looking forward to.
Find one good thing that you are proud of and talk about it.
People will connect with you over the potential they see in you and the values you adhere to as well as your work.
Find the connections between your interests/work/personalities and embrace the natural conversation.
No one is the finished article of themselves.
People can tell when you’re pretending, so be yourself.
In the second half, three representatives from Raconteur visited to advise the students on the brief, their progress so far and answer any questions. Here were some of their main take-aways:
Publishing manager Hannah Smallman, (Raconteur’s first graduate employee), promoted passion pitching and confidence.
Designer Colm McDermott, (UAL alumni), gave everyone the finer details of Raconteur’s visuals in terms of layouts, font styles, reasons for their spacing between columns and the purpose of having a ‘visual entrance’ for the reader.
Nathaniel Wilson, the Head of Special Reports, encouraged the idea that there is room for Raconteur to go from 80 to 100 published reports a year so to be creative and grab their attention by asking throughout the process “why would a CEO read this article”.
Nathan went on to give the following very insightful tips about how to speak to a CEO:
Remember they are always thinking about work, so if you can let their mind’s drift into envisioning the future and solves their challenges on a peer-peer level (not pandering to them) you will get further.
Mirror their personality in a way that is yourself. For example, if they are bubbly let that side of you show. If they are stern then get straight to the point.
Your time is just as precious as theirs.
They can tell when you’re faking it.
On check-out students revealed they were feeling “motivated, excited, supported and clearer about the next six weeks”.
Jannett described week four as the "stretch zone" and reiterated the key takeaways to be passionate, be genuine, and always choose to be yourself.