Creativity's female future

Ali Hanan, founder and chief executive of Creative Equals, introduces 30 female creative trailblazers on course to be the industry leaders of tomorrow.

Creativity's female future

The judges

Victoria Buchanan, executive creative director, Tribal Worldwide London

Rob Doubal and Laurence Thomson, co-presidents and chief creative officers, McCann London

Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder, Creative Social and Token Man

Ian Heartfield, deputy executive creative director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Emma Perkins, group executive creative director, MullenLowe

Cheyney Robinson, global chief experience officer, Isobar

Caitlin Ryan, executive creative director, Cheil Worldwide

In the UK, only 12% of creative directors are female. To change this, Creative Equals, which champions gender-equality in the creative industries, is partnering Campaign to celebrate 30 (or 31, as it ultimately turned out) women redefining adland through their creativity and craft.

Many of the women are working outside of their day job to make the industry a place where they and other women can thrive.

"The work we saw shows the applicants are punching above their weight in their personal projects, their ambitions, their energy and their determination," Caitlin Ryan, executive creative director at Cheil Worldwide and one of the #CEFutureLeaders judges, says. 

The calibre of candidates impressed the jury. "The future of our industry is in safe hands," Ian Heartfield, deputy executive creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, says. "It’s exciting to see the quality of the next generation of creative talent coming through the ranks." 

For MullenLowe group executive creative director Emma Perkins, what stood out was how hard "many of the women are working outside of their day job to make the industry a place where they and other women can thrive".

Identifying these future leaders is part of the Creative Equals mission to track and monitor the progress of 100 of London’s rising stars with the aim of doubling the number of female creative directors over the next 24 months. To further develop this talent, it is launching the Creative Equals Leadership School, sponsored by Facebook, in June. 

Pansy Aung


Cheil Worldwide

Last Christmas, Aung created the Samsung Gear S3 World Choir, the world’s first biometric stage. For the first time, it enabled the audience not only to hear and see the performance but also witness the emotions felt by choir members as they sang.

Over the 24 days leading up to Christmas, different choirs from around the world were invited to perform on the World Choir stage. As each sang, their biometric data, including heart rate, calories burnt and movement, was monitored live by Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches and transformed into stunning, real-time cinematic visuals. 

Casey Bird



Perkins sums it up: "All in all, Casey is a talented lady and much-awarded for her work, which is strong in ideas and copy craft. She is the new breed of creative – curious and entrepreneurial without the ego.

While she’s busy forging her own career, she’s putting the ladder back to help others achieve success. It’s important to recognise rising stars like Casey who do so much to make the industry better."

Bird, a freelance copywriter as well as president of women’s mentorship organisation SheSays, has worked at agencies including Grey London, R/GA and Sunshine, and is currently at Livity on a six-month project with YouTube/Google. 

Emily Churches


Grey London

Churches was part of the creative team that helped bring to life the "#WithRefugees" campaign. Partnering the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Just So and Google, she created an emotional 90-second trailer for the long-form documentary covering the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.

She was a founding member of the Young Creative Council and now at Grey runs the placement scheme and university workshops where she gives advice to young creatives. "Cool work, great attitude," Rob Doubal and Laurence Thomson, co-presidents and chief creative officers at McCann London, say. 

Alex Delaney

Art director

18 Feet & Rising 

Delaney has demonstrated creative leadership across a range of brands including National Trust and House of Fraser. Her National Trust "Coast" campaign, in which she worked with John Cooper Clarke, was voted by the UK public as one of their ten favourite pieces of work.

This year, she was asked to be on the Young Ones competition judging panel and also guest tutors at the London College of Communication and School of Communication Arts. "Exciting work," Victoria Buchanan, executive creative director at Tribal Worldwide London, says. "Sharp and different."

Kat Encanto

Senior creative

MullenLowe London

"Kat’s worldwide experience and evocative creative ideas make her a real force to be reckoned with," Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Creative Social and Token Man, says.

Her recent campaigns for Inspiring the Future and Inspiring Girls attempt to "#RedrawTheBalance" and address gender stereotyping among children. With no media budget, the work reached more than 20 million people in two months, became news in 82 countries and has been replicated worldwide.

Encanto has worked in creative agencies around the globe, including in Manila, Milan, Parma and Bangkok. 

Tori Fannon


Creature of London

Heartfield describes Fannon as a "standout" because of her "thought-provoking, clever work". Over the past 12 months, her biggest achievement was creating the Green Party’s 2016 election broadcast "The not so secret life of 5 year old politicians".

The film racked up millions of views online and was covered by all leading UK newspapers. It was also voted the greatest political broadcast of all time by the public.

Fannon’s work has been recognised at D&AD and the Campaign Big Awards, and she now appears on major judging panels.

Debs Gerrard

Creative director


Gerrard was chosen by Thomson and Doubal for her contribution to the steady growth of Albion, with best-in-class creative work.

In the past 12 months, she has worked with the IPA to rewrite the creative process section of their foundation course, mentored entrepreneurs through the Startup Kitchen scheme and has written columns in industry magazines exploring the fundamentals of the creative process in the hope that it will inspire investment in change. 

Kimberley Gill

Associate creative director

Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Cheyney Robinson, global chief experience officer at Isobar, sums up why Gill made this list: "Gill’s work was striking for its simplicity and ability to express what is truly unique to the brands and stories she tells. Her work gives the highest level of consideration and thoughtfulness to what is memorable and connects emotionally with an audience."

Highlights include giving a 13-year-old Tanzanian mother a voice to show the realities of her daily life and "Keep Aaron cutting", a campaign using social media to help an 89-year-old barber whose shop was destroyed in the 2011 London riots.

Gill’s work is "conscious, powerful and provocative – exactly the type of work we need more of".

Nathalie Gordon

Senior creative


Gordon’s recent work "#christmasSOwhite", which highlights the lack of ethnic-minority families in Christmas ads, is up for a diversity award, and she won two D&AD Impact Pencils for her Taxi Fabric project.

Perkins says: "Nathalie’s work made my heart race. She’s exciting, clearly has her finger on the pulse and so her work is innovative and culturally relevant. She’s a woman of influence. People of influence are drawn to her and want to know what she thinks and has to say."

Jo Griffin



In the past 12 months, Griffin has stormed through briefs and produced a mass of work after the success of her multi-award-winning "Missing type" campaign for NHS Blood and Transplant.

She has completed the E.ON sponsorship idents for Sky Cinema, spent an age in post-production suites crafting the channel’s Christmas ad, relaunched B&Q with a series of home-improvement animals including Fred the Zebra, dived head-first into the world of King game Shuffle Cats… and all while working on "Missing type" part two.

"I noticed her work at Cannes last year," Buchanan says. "She’s a force to watch." 

Catherine Hope

Creative director


Hope has worked with Rankin and will have a global integrated campaign for Samsonite launch in June, as well as compelling work for Impulse that champions the spirited and political opinions of teenagers across the country.

"You can feel the promise in Catherine’s work, the sense she’s just getting started," Perkins says. "The ideas are there,  the drive, the refreshing point of view on where the industry should be going."  

Katy Hopkins

Creative director


Hopkins has taken the helm of retail account B&Q and in the past 12 months overseen two full campaigns for the brand. She also found the time to produce several award-winning campaigns for Born Free, a charity focused on ensuring that wild animals remain in the wild. Hopkins has also recently worked on TransPennine Express, Pride in London and the Royal Navy.

"The work is delightful and thoughtful," Robinson comments.  

Cathy Hutton and Jo Jenkins

Freelance creative directors

"This team creates well-crafted work based on great insights," Ryan says. At Karmarama, Jenkins and Hutton ran and won a competitive pitch for the two-year Honda sponsorship of Channel 4 Films.

They are meticulous with their craft and champion young talent. Individually, they have won many accolades, including D&AD yellow Pencils, Campaign Big Awards and DMA Awards. 

Nikki Lindman

Associate creative director

Bartle Bogle Hegarty 

Lindman is one of the industry’s most highly acclaimed creative directors. After nearly two years in research, she saw through the production of her first Axe commercial. Lindman led BBH’s pro-bono "Soho not SoSo" project, campaigning against Soho’s gentrification with 20 global artists including Sir Peter Blake. She has won an array of awards, including at Cannes, the British Arrows, the Campaign Big Awards and D&AD.

Buchanan says: "Nikki thoroughly deserves recognition. She is pure advertising class with a strong, beautiful portfolio. I love her clever ideas, flawlessly executed."

Scarlett Montanaro


Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO  

"While she has strong work, Crack + Cider sets her apart," Buchanan says. The shop for the homeless, which Montanaro co-founded, sells essential items that people can buy and give to those most in need.

So far, 7,000 items have been distributed to homeless people in London and San Francisco, and the public have donated $100,000. Montanaro was a finalist of the IPA’s Women of Tomorrow in 2016, was named in the BIMA 100 and has spoken at TEDx. 

Lauren Morris

Deputy design director

Iris Worldwide 

Over the past 12 months, Morris has returned from six months of maternity leave, been promoted to deputy design director at Iris and taken on the management of four young designers.

She has since created some of her best work, carving out a brand for herself within the agency. Robinson cherry-picked Morris because of her illustrative work, clear career progression and side-projects such as @stalkerdoodle. "I loved her fresh illustrations and sense of fun," Robinson says. 

Caroline Paris

Creative director


Paris’ "Bunny" TV ad for Lovehoney was a Campaign Pick of the Week in 2016. Leading the creative new-business charge, she helped independent agency Brave win five out of six pitches last year. In her spare time, Paris mentors at the School of Communication Arts and the Young Creative Council.

"Her pitch successes and her impressive body of work show she has the maturity to balance client empathy with creative ambition, which is why we’ve earmarked her as a creative superstar," Fiandaca says. 

Lauren Pleydell-Pearce

Creative director


Pleydell-Pearce’s greatest achievement is her work on the new Shell UK loyalty programme, co-ordinating a team of 12 people. She defined the vision for the new brand, from creative to visual design to user-experience to strategy.

Creative work aside, Pleydell-Pearce has helped to shape a dynamic 50/50 creative department by hiring young talent and mums returning to the workforce. In addition, she brings in apprentices, has commissioned "Personal Brand" workshops and sits on the Wunderman diversity board. 

LA Ronayne

Creative director

Havas London 

Ronayne started out in 2008 at Work Club before moving up the career ladder. She has worked with brands such as Johnnie Walker, Heineken, Adidas, GH Mumm and Rimmel London.

In 2014, Ronayne was named a winner of the Women of Tomorrow awards and, two years later, elected on to the D&AD board of trustees. She has judged the D&AD Awards and Young Lions Ireland, and was a 2016 D&AD New Blood forewoman.

Vikki Ross

Freelance copy chief

Ross puts together innovative events such as Copy Cabana and #copywritersunite, which has grown from London to Manchester and Edinburgh.

These nights have enabled copywriters to make friends and business contacts, find work and launch ideas. Ross’ passion empowers attendees to promote copywriting in their teams, departments and the brands they work on. 

Rebecca Rumble

Associate creative director


Rumble was singled out for her range of work across various media, from apps to content films and motion design. She brings brands to life through moving image and design, delivering refreshing ideas ahead of trend.

Recently, Rumble worked on Incomplete, which was selected for BFI Flare, the London LGBT film festival. She has won numerous awards for her Beats Music work, including a D&AD Pencil and silver Cyber Lion. "She’s a strong all-rounder with a mix of cool, cutting-edge ideas across multiple platforms," Buchanan says.  

Resh Sidhu

Creative director, virtual reality


Sidhu’s work shows true grit. "She’s a pioneer in the virtual-reality space," Fiandaca says, "carving a path through unexplored terrain to become one of the most highly regarded names in virtual reality." She broke new ground by designing the first consumer-facing virtual-reality experience for Nissan at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Her department’s most-awarded piece of work is "The field trip to Mars" for Lockheed Martin and McCann New York. For her most-recent work – a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them virtual-reality experience – Sidhu worked closely with Warner Bros, Google and JK Rowling. 

Shelley Smoler

Creative director

Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Smoler has had an intense year. Her Mentos "Mentors" campaign was among the 20 most globally shared ads of 2016. She won a Film Lion at Cannes and was invited to judge at D&AD, Cannes and the British Arrows.

Smoler’s passion remains within agencies – mentoring young talent to develop their craft skills and boost their confidence. She has witnessed first-hand how great ideas can transcend cultures, backgrounds and geographical boundaries. Smoler hopes to prove to the industry that creativity is gender-neutral and that the potential for creative people to change the world is limitless.

Hana Tanimura

Senior designer

Google Creative Lab 

A winner at the Women of Tomorrow awards, Tanimura has some of the best qualities you would expect in today’s up-and-coming leaders. "Her portfolio is full of interesting, diverse work showing an enlightened view of the world," Ryan says.

Standout work includes a mobile app, built in 36 hours, to help the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing civil war to stay safe. Perkins says: "Tanimura is an interesting problem-solver, her work often dealing with big global issues. She’s starting to contribute to the industry more broadly. She’s showing the DNA of a leader."

Clemmie Telford

Freelance creative strategist

A former Grey London creative director who is now freelancing at Facebook, Telford’s résumé includes big ideas for brands as well as passion projects. Some of her most notable work is for clients including Yorkshire Tea, The Sunday Times and McVitie’s. T

elford blogs at Mother of All Lists and is a fierce champion of mums in the workplace. Her biannual "Mother of All Meet Ups" is a vital support network for mums with creative jobs.  

Jade Tomlin

Creative director

Alpha Century

Tomlin, a former creative group head at Hugo & Cat, has just stepped up to the role of creative director at Alpha Century. Described as a "pure creative", she holds workshops for young creative entrepreneurs.

Tomlin this year won a place on "See It Be It", the Cannes Lions programme for high-potential senior creative women, and is "about to show us what she’s made of", according to Buchanan.

Alice Tonge

Head of creative and design


Tonge’s work is fearless, powerful and vital. Her outstanding creative vision has received recognition from D&AD, Cannes and the British Arrows – the last two in the form of gold awards.

Heartfield says: "Many were good, but Tonge’s work was in another league." Indeed, it matches creative risk to exceptional craft. "Her ‘superhumans’ campaigns and the rebranding of Channel 4 show a phenomenal range that reflects her ability to unlock the story ‘behind a story’ and champion unsung heroes, whose stories would not otherwise be heard," Robinson says. Tonge demonstrates this in Channel 4’s "Alternative Voices" and "Gay Mountain" campaigns. 

Jo Wallace

Freelance creative director

To inspire more "kick-ass" female role models across the male-dominated creative industries, Wallace has spent the past 12 months running a non-profit fun dining event called Good Girls Eat Dinner.

Speakers so far have included artist and film-maker Alison Jackson, Hollywood stuntwoman Amanda Foster and newsreader Cathy Newman, as well as leading lights from adland. "Jo is changing careers with Good Girls Eat Dinner. This work alone should guarantee her a place on this list," Ryan says.

Aleks Wnuk


Stink Studios  

Buchanan singled out Wnuk as a "great digital creative and one to follow". At AKQA she worked with Eurostar, Volvo and was behind the Nike Rise 2 campaign which won at Cannes and D&AD. At Stink Studios, she worked with the team on the first ever UK campaign for Pinterest, including collaborations with Stylist influencers and their holiday pop-up event.

Outside of agency life, Wnuk has co-founded a modeling company that puts London's leading yoga teachers at the forefront of brand campaigns.

Polina Zabrodskaya

Creative director

Publicis London 

Zabrodskaya created Heineken’s garlanded "The dilemma" campaign, which picked up two gold and three other Cannes Lions, a Grand Clio and golds at LIA, Eurobest and New York Festivals.

She has enjoyed success wherever she has been, including on brands such as Post-it, Visa and Intouch Insurance. Zabrodskaya, who has worked for Publicis Italy and BBDO Russia, was snapped up by Publicis London in January. 

Other women to watch

Shahnaz Ahmed senior designer, Livity; Alison Haigh senior designer, Wolff Olins; Sarah Hardcastle creative, Mr President; Marcie MacLellan founder, Frank & Lively; Mady Morris copywriter, Grey London; Leyya Sattar designer, MYWW; Alison Steven copywriter, FCB Inferno; Imogen Tazzyman creative director, Karmarama