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Future Women+ Leaders: Part 2

Womens' fists in the air
Womens' fists in the air
Illustration by Nia Hefe Filiogianni
Written by
Creative Shift and Lizzie Reid, Careers and Employability
Published date
29 April 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 in weeks 5 to 9...

Week 5

Time for part two, welcome back!

With teams working together outside the sessions via email, WhatsApp and Google Drive, the research and visuals for their special reports were well underway, Beginning the session with our weekly checkin, students chatted through their emojiemotions, concerns, fears and triumphs of the week. Taking note of the reoccurring trend for fear to build up outside of the session, we can all recognise the positive shift in mentality and approach that being together in a weekly dedicated and focused space, reflecting on successes, simplifying tasks left to do and making a plan ignites in each other.

Making the most of the motivation found in the sessions, each group prepared and shared a 5-minute presentation of their special report progress since meeting three of Raconteur in week four.

It can be very common to underestimate your progress as an individual and as a team, so Jannett’s short presentations not only give the students time to practice presenting before the big day, but also carves the space to mentally re-organise and simplify what they’ve done and have left do.

This week another set of creatives from Raconteur came in to answer further questions and offer advice. Frank Monaghan the Head of Special Reports, Fran Cassidy the Deputy Editor and Celina Lucey the Senior Graphic Designer were all so impressed by the editorial standard, the relevance and the impactful subjects of the reports thus far. They reminded the students to be opinionated and keep questioning “why am I writing this? Why does it matter? Would I pick up this article and want to read it? Do all the pieces of the report make a complete puzzle?”

Week 6

In this session, we focused on presenting tips and techniques with Creative Shift’s Sat Sehmby and Charline Springer. Covering everything from body language to talk structure, I think it’s safe to say we all learnt something this day!

Below are some of the presentation tips from the session:

Remember who your audience are:

  • Ask yourself, what do they need to know? Why are they here to listen to you?
  • Once clear, stay relevant and don’t stray off topic.

Have a strong start:

  • Aim to engage your audience’s attention in the first 7-11 seconds with your main point, your strongest statistic or your most interesting point to hook them in.

Pace yourself:

  • Aim for 130 words a minute. To note, typically we speak at 160 words per minute.
  • Introduce yourself with a 60-second elevator pitch:

Your audience wants to know who they’re giving their time and attention to.

Try answering these questions in under 60 seconds with your most interesting points (#f***beinghumble).

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Your strengths and highlights
  • Your goals and ambitions

Now, most importantly practise and refine your pitch.

Don’t tell them every detail (you don’t have time). Aim to leave them wanting to know more and create great conversation starters for networking afterwards.

Tell a story (humans love stories): Now they’re hooked on your main point and who you are, structure your presentation with a beginning middle and end, keeping it simple and focused.


  • Predict some questions and prepare some answers beforehand which you could source from a rehearsal audience. -
  • Conclude your presentation.
  • Thank your audience.
  • Open the space up for the audience for comments and questions.
  • It’s ok to not know an answer. You can refer them to an expert on that topic or say you will look into it and get back to them on that question.

Body language:

  • Get familiar with your body language in everyday situations. Movement and hand gestures are normal and help others feel engaged. Pay attention to them and recognise your ‘norm’ actions vs. your actions when you’re nervous. -
  • Practise! Find your comfortable middle and your superhero pose! This is your power pose to command the room and declare your presence. Adopt the pose as you feel the nerves creeping in.
  • Before a presentation, in your team come up with a formation in the order of who’s speaking. Always bear in mind the size and positioning of the screen with your presentation.

Voice control:

  • Remember who you are
  • use your own voice.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence.
  • During practice runs, learn to recognise how your team members act and recover from moments of error to prevent premature interruptions of each other.
  • Have a positive mantra in the back of your mind to pump yourself up before, during and after the presentation. Take note from Valeria’s reminder to herself that she is a BOSS!
  • Relax
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Week 7

Being under very different circumstances, with an additional dose of patience and consideration whilst we all adjust, we vowed to keep the project moving and whilst the Creative Shift team continued to find ways to best support the teams remotely, self-management became the key message.

Self-management when working from home is challenging. Over the past 6 weeks, we’ve seen a trend of positive and increased motivation during the session from being together, remembering our achievements and simplifying the remaining tasks. These actions can be continued in numerous ways online:

  • Teams can find a digital space to get together via video call, WhatsApp, Google docs, social media etc.
  • Set a routine meet-up with focused periods of time in advance. - Set agendas for each meeting.
  • Add in time to socialise, catch up and check in on life aside from the project.

For example:

  • Join chat at 1pm Socialise for 20 minutes
  • Check-in on how each person is feeling
  • Update on individual progress since the last meeting
  • Accumulate the remaining tasks
  • Deliberate how to achieve them within the time frame and delegate
  • Discuss any issues, questions or concerns
  • Set a date and time for the next meeting. Aim to complete chat by 2:30pm

Whilst we self-manage our own actions, we must also manage the effects of our actions on others. To work in a team, communication is key! Consider this: We are less stressed by the things we understand and handle well. So the better our communication with each other via updates, being responsive and responsible for our own time and engagement, the less stress we impose on our team members. If you are unaware of a person’s progress on a piece of work, this is more stressful than knowing they are behind on X, need Y more time and/or support in Z. With an extended deadline, we can’t wait to see their reports from pulling together during such different times!

Week 8

Zooming ahead! This week we zoomed had a 15 minute zoom with each student for a quick check-in and to delve into one of the following areas within the project: - working with your colleagues - time management - presentation skills - confidence.

Other Some of the key points were:

  • Little and often communication with small goals is better than none at all.
  • A lack of communication without good reason often stems from fear of being the weakest link. These scenarios may require someone to take an assertive lead on scheduling conversations with a positive and forwardthinking approach.
  • Check-in with team members instead of speculating. Share your position and needs with your team and open the conversation to find out whether anyone else needs anything.
  • Employers look for how you resolve and initiate through issues to find the biggest lessons and manifest those into your leadership.
  • How do I keep my communication with the contacts I’ve made live past the project? Remind them of your interest in working with them. Update them on your developments. Engage with their linked in, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts (preferably from a business account)
  • Ask for help when you need it and before you need it. Identify how you feel and ask yourself, could other members of my team be feeling this way too? If so, what can we do and what can we change?
  • Schedule your calendar by task and by the hour to be most realistic with your time.

The progress of leadership truly shone in many members of the Women+ In Leadership programme. Everyone was active in trialling their own methods to reach their own answers and develop their own plans of action, with a balance of compassion and consideration to find solutions and positive ways to manage people and the remaining tasks, to bring them their reports to completion. A few certainly took on the role of team representative during the particularly unsettled times and collaboratively, it was clear they had pulled the many strings involved, together

Week 9

Well, there we go. Reports are handed in, the feedback from Raconteur has been shared to most two out of the three groups, and with only the presentation left to do, it definitely tastes like a good break is greatly deserved.

On our first zoom call since hand-in, everyone exhibited a sense of melancholy and subduedness, most likely due to several factors.

In this final session (for now), everyone recalled their skills wheels they completed on day one of the programme and made an updated version of where they feel their skills grade now. Needless to say the changes were profound, in the change of the scores but mostly in the change of their explanations of the scores.

Every student spoke about each skill with precision. Delving into precise examples of events during the programme and acknowledgements of creative, professional and personal developments. They’d explain how some events and happenings influenced each other, how skills blossomed and realisations within their personalities arose.

Allowing themselves to be vulnerable and honest, they were able to bypass embarrassment and self-loathing and encourage themselves to trust in the group support and reflect deeper into their experiences wholeheartedly.

Sharing lessons of:

  • How time management teaches them not to overestimate the limits of time and your potential to create a more realistic approach. How confidence can be learnt with experience and questioned at the source.
  • That working in a team requires patience and an openness to new ideas which is a process that forces you to ‘chill out’.
  • That when self-judgement is shared amongst peers or colleagues it can be lightened and resonate in a way which helps others too.
  • That being productive and self-management is hard but having differentiating skills and characteristics in a group makes it easier.
  • The past 9 weeks have highlighted natural strengths, practised creative skills and developed a multitude of areas in confidence.
  • Confidence through communication. Communication in terms of networking, describing one’s self, between team members and in written articles. Confidence in selflearning, that not everything will be 100%, that it’s ok that our bodies and minds respond to how we feel and that we all benefit from positive support. Confidence in being your own voice, speaking up, representing your team, representing yourself and sharing your knowledge, opinions and experiences.

Jannett Morgan and the Creative shift team created a programme designed to teach what it takes to be a leader. It has done that and so much more. Most importantly (in my opinion), it has taught the students that there is no set box all leaders fit into, nor is there a set regime or process to becoming a leader. And over the past 9 weeks, every woman in this programme has come to know their unique style of leadership, applied it and gained from it. It has most certainly been a journey, however we can’t share it all with you just yet. The special reports will remain under wraps until later in the year but trust me when I say, you will want to keep an eye out for these!

Written by Illustrator, Designer and Poet Lizzie Reid. Photography by Lizzie Reid. Header illustration by Nia Hefe Filiogianni.