Honouring International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019, Cogs will be featuring women making an impact in the digital space. Let’s speak to these women about their successes and learnings in the workplace and life.
In this edition of our Women’s Day series, we will speak to Lauren Pleydell-Pearce, currently an Executive Creative Director at the Experience Centre, PwC. We go to know Lauren back in 2012 when she was Design Lead, and hiring visual designers to join her growing team on Heineken.
Having recently joined the world of consulting, Lauren is having fun designing beautiful things that work for the Global Fortune 500 as well as supporting start-ups and innovative market challenges.
Let’s jump straight in Lauren. A recent stat claims that 88% of young female creatives say they lack role models. What and who are you personally inspired by and how does this transcend into your work?
I would struggle to pinpoint a single source or individual who inspires me. I am definitely not driven by a single female source of inspiration because I don’t consider gender as a factor to whether the thinking and the work is great or not. I’m continually motivated and inspired by the men and women I work with, by the endless streams of talent on Instagram, by the small crazy innovative start-ups and the big guns out there.
I’m a big visual hoarder of all things design, whether it’s architecture and interiors, or materials and textures and I love to read everything from HBR and Michael Porter to Backstage Talks to New Scientist and MIT Press. It comes to life in my work is so many ways I’m not sure I’m even truly aware of how it influences my thinking!
In 2017, Design Week reported that only 11% of the creative directors in the industry are women. Where have the women gone? Since design school intakes are largely female. What and where have your peers in your school days gone after graduation?
Unfortunately, that’s an easy one. Most of the female designers I have worked with had a family at some point in their career. When returning from maternity, they either then left and went contracting, left to be a full-time mum, or even started up their own business doing something different entirely. As a whole, the creative industry shamefully doesn’t support the return of female designers as they should, and losing that wealth of talent means not only the industry suffers but the UK too. It’s why programs like Creative Equals ‘Returners’ is so wonderful to see, as well as the ‘Back to Business’ returner programme here which offers a 6-month internship to those coming back after a career break. We need more like these.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about working in the Creative sector as a woman today?
For me, I had two key ‘ah ha!’ moments in my career.
The first was that without realising it, I had held the belief that in order to be successful you had to develop and conform to the standard stereotype of a ‘Creative Leader’, and if you didn’t conform then you wouldn’t progress. That meant hiding parts of who I was – the personality quirks, the emotional hormone roller-coasters – and learning how to play a certain character. Coming to the understanding that there is actually more than one way of being a Creative Leader, and that there is an option out there to be your true self whilst also holding that type of role was a breakthrough.
The other key realisation I had, and this will be a little controversial, was the assumption that every woman in the creative industry will be on your team, and support you as you do them. Sadly this is not the case, and you just need to realise that you have to be you and they have to be them. If you are in a position of leadership, however, remember to always look back and support those who need it most – no matter the gender.
What is the biggest challenge in your opinion for women to succeed in the workplace?
I can’t speak for others, as everyone is on their own journey, but the biggest one for me is the distraction of my gender from what I do and create. Obviously, I’ve female traits and all the stuff that comes along with having ovaries, but throughout my career, I’ve never had my gender in front of mind in everything I do. Rather I’ve always identified as a designer and a creative problem solver. So to have people reference or remind me of my femininity is a distraction from what I’m really here to do – which is to create beautiful things that work for people, and help others to do the same.
What is your definition of success?
Success for me is that feeling of ‘flow’ you can slip into – those moments of energy, enjoyment and focus. I had it recently when our team – all with diverse skills, perspectives and experiences – got into a room, agreed on a shared ambition and then just blew it out of the park with their ideas and cohesion as if they hadn’t just met a few weeks previously. Those moments of total ‘flow’ where it was about our creative minds and not what we looked like or sounded like we’re working together towards a common goal – they’re the successful moments you need to celebrate.
As a woman of ambition and vision, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Good question. I’ve just recently made a leap into the consultancy where I’m exploring, testing, and learning how best to use the team’s talent in creative thinking and design. I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me though, and that there really won’t be anything I can’t do with the skills I’m learning… So watch out world, I’m coming for you! 😉
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Cogs celebrate all the achievements women have made to make their workplace and the world a better place. Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s Month to all the ladies.