This month I attended the annual Creative Equals event RISE 2022.

If you don’t know, the goal of this event is about creating better equality within the creative industries.

That means challenging things like, where are all the female creative directors? Why is LGBTQ+ representation so poor in creative campaigns? And why are Black voices only relevant during specific calendar moments?

This year’s topic was all about inclusive leadership which I was all in for.

It’s a day that is largely attended by people like me who are already trying to change something within their line of work – an all-day event to be around other inspirational people facing similar challenges.

However, this event is often missing the leaders who have made a promise and commitment to their employees around diversity, equity and inclusion. So, if that’s you and you missed out, read on and put a reminder in to buy a ticket next year.



At 9am I was laughing.

Stand-up comedian and writer Sophie Duker opened up the event and wasted no time in saying exactly what she thought. “They asked me to leave you with three takeaways” …and proceeded to share three of her favourite restaurants on Deliveroo (Ifykyk).

Duker used a video game format (complete with her own avatar) and shared her insights on accessing different areas of identity and navigating more difficult environments. What I learned:

Choose Your Fighter: Choosing how you present is important and sometimes ‘Angry Black Woman’ is the one that will just get sh*t done.

Access Multiplayer Mode: Find the people and allies that will help you to work towards change.

Beat the Boss: Sometimes your biggest enemy is your own self-doubt. Recognise that.


It’s commonly known amongst womxn and POC that they often need to try twice as hard to get half as far. But to change the system, the people with privilege and power need to double their efforts.

Setting goals for DEI is important. Having one is the only way to get started.

But it’s slow.

As was shown by the figures creative director, founder and CEO of Creative Equals Ali Hanan shared right at the beginning of the day.

In 2016 when Creative Equals began measuring how many female creatives and creative directors were present in our industry. It was LOW. 12% low.

Six years on, global data from LinkedIn puts that figure at 29%. Data from Creative Equals combined with industry recruitment data puts that figure at between 26% and 27% in the UK.

We know change happens slowly but are we, as leaders, working towards our goals with real investment and a sense of innovation?


Most people have had jobs, titles and been given certain responsibilities which left us feeling like imposters.

The idea that author and speaker Jaz Ampaw-Farr put forward was simple. Rather than just relying on your role to give you an indicator of your capabilities, you should rely on what you do, and have done.

This is to challenge two damaging, but common thoughts:

  • I’m not good enough
  • People like me don’t do things like that

This is particularly important for leaders to understand how some people might struggle in an environment where they are the outsider or minority.

Someone can both be very capable but also seem not to ‘fully engage’ or struggle with things that seem basic.

If someone takes longer or takes their time on a task, they might also be considering how they will be perceived if they get it wrong. They are also quite often end up representing a whole community of people like them.


In my role as a strategist, I am very aware of the questions I ask and choices I make that shape a brief. With that comes how accurately I am representing a ‘truth’ or audience group, whilst still meeting the brand objectives.

Global director of diversity and inclusion at Reckitt Efrain Ayala is one of the people whose words I hung onto the most and really began considering how I can research and write better briefs.

He spoke to a shortcut we have all used for ticking the diversity box: diverse casting.

  • Looking through a deck and making sure there are a variety of genders, skin colours and ethnicities.
  • Briefing for creative or casting for a shoot with descriptions like “diverse families”.

It’s great to have mixed race families in a supermarket ad but how are you portraying real experiences and not stereotypes?

One ‘what not to do’ example was one of the UK Government’s Stay at Home Save Lives poster campaigns which ran during lockdown. The ad showed a mixture of households – you guessed it – staying at home.

A skin tone diversity box was checked, but then there were some glaring stereotypes – women doing the housework and acting as the caregivers in most of the scenarios. It perpetuated a stereotype that proved problematic, as the realities of the economic fallout of the pandemic also had a regressive effect on gender equality.

Some people might think – come on there’s other diversity in the visual.

So what? Remember: Twice. As. Hard. Give those often overlooked a chance to feel seen and portrayed in a positive, progressive way.

This ad is an example of working hard to recognise our biases. They show up all the time and can be triggered in two seconds. A perfect example of this is illustrated by CPD London’s Imagine campaign for International Women’s Day.

So what did Efrain leave us with?

Be Purposeful: check your biases at every step – especially if your project timeline takes several weeks.

Harness the power of portrayal: who are you representing and is it positive + realistic?

Be Curious: be the person – even if it feels provocative – to question why we’re doing the things we’re doing


One feature of RISE events is a fishbowl exercise run by CEO of The Marketing Society, Gemma Greaves.

The idea of a fishbowl is that people in the audience get the opportunity to share, while their peers listen. While I don’t like the idea of a hundred eyes looking at me, this exercise elicits some of the most vulnerable and therefore impactful insights of the day.

This year’s theme was all about feedback, one of the most important gifts you can give and receive. The most useful type being radical candour – direct, honest and open conversations. However, too often it’s not given with positive intent and people in the audience took the opportunity to share some of the more damaging feedback they’ve had in their working careers.

Examples include:

“Your work lacks gumption”

“You’re not corporate enough for a CEO”

“You’re too emotional”

“You’re not smart enough to write”

What should we take from this?

Give feedback continuously and with good intent.

You could be the person that allows someone else to choose a fighter that is a version of confidence they did not think was possible.