Courageous Conversation: Where are all the Women in Design?

Brand consultancy and Design Studio, Single Malt, have started an exciting new series. The series, Courageous Conversation, will be covering topics from inequality, the gender pay gap and women in design right through to debates around “print is dead” and the struggle of the work/life balance.

As the first post in the Courageous Conversation series, Creative Leader, Rebecca Hull, discusses the prevalent issue surrounding the number of females in senior design roles, the stats are appalling.


I am Bekkie, 23, from Morecambe Bay and I currently run our design team. Yes, the ripe old age of 23. I have probably surpassed all “expectations” as a woman at my age and become a leader very early on. In all honesty, knowing that I’m bucking the trend of general career conventions is definitely the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. If you had asked me a year ago, I’d have said it is designing that gets me up, but these days I get so much more out of creating an environment in which everyone can thrive. One that inspires creativity and passion and encourages everyone to have their voice. It’s often strange to think of myself as a leader, but I am, and it’s time to own it. A massive inspiration for me has been Jessica Walsh, she recognised to become a partner at 25 she had to take risks to get her own studio, a very talented art director and creative, inspiring women all over the world.


We are in 2019 and are still having the conversation around women in leadership. I went to a Ladies Wine Design event a couple of months ago and Olivia Downing from Chicks in Advertising told me that 11% of Creative Directors are female. 11%?! I can tell you, I nearly fell off my chair! 

After a little digging around, I found The Drums coverage of the ‘3% Conference’ showing the “hopeful new statistics, moving female creative director representation from 11% to 29%”. However hopeful this stat is, it’s still evident that women are still massively underrepresented on the creative front.

We are in a world where there are more women in design education than ever before but somehow, they are not getting their seat at the table. The HESA reported that there are nearly 50,000 more women in Creative arts & design education than men, with that astonishing more women in creative education why aren’t women getting their senior positions? 

Early on at Single Malt, Sheryl Sandberg was recommended to me. Famous for her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Her whole mantra and foundation for the book is that we are “holding ourselves back by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in”. As women, we need to help liberate each other and inspire confidence to have our voices heard. We are often too afraid of going after what we want and asking for the next big thing, asking for the new project, asking for more responsibility and taking the opportunity. Sandberg’s book fired me up, because she is right, there is this timid attitude which needs to be replaced with leaning in! It has taken me some time to stand up and really own my position but I’m learning every day – and we need to champion other women to do the same.


We are extremely lucky that women dominate our own team here at Single Malt. I strongly believe it’s not down to the women to fight inequality on their own. However, men aren’t the problem here, we just need them to help champion the strong women they work with and help mentor and support those aspiring for better things. At Single Malt our owners are the only males in the business, they do nothing but support, encourage and celebrate the success of the women they employ and help them achieve their wider dreams. It is this attitude which causes success, our women feel empowered in their roles, have autonomy and are continuously trying to self-improve not for the business, but for themselves.  As Sandberg says “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Whatever your gender in a leadership position you should be looking for the mentees, those hungry, ambitious, young professionals looking for that bit of encouragement.


Whoever you are, if you have aspirations of leadership, stand up and lean in. If the opportunity isn’t there, make your own. If you have an idea, voice it. If you want to start something new, then do it. If you want to be the next creative director, fight for it, carve your own path. Be confident and believe in your own self-worth. 

As a studio who advocates women empowerment, the lack of women in our industry sparked this series and has encouraged us to have a voice. Later in the series you’ll see us interview the strong and successful women we’ve worked with and celebrate the success of women in and out of our industry. 

If you want to know more about our Courageous Conversation series check out the introductory post here.

The next post in the Courageous Conversation will be a fantastic interview with an inspiring friend, mentor and client!