IWD 2022: the Campaign team's picks of inspirational women

On International Women’s Day 2022, Campaign's journalists pick the women working in adland and beyond whom they admire.

IWD: inspirational women picked by the Campaign team (Credits: Getty Images)
IWD: inspirational women picked by the Campaign team (Credits: Getty Images)

Karen Martin

Chief executive of Bartle Bogle Hegarty London

Karen Martin is a formidable woman. She manages to combine picking up an oar and paddling with the rest of the agency with being clear about the direction she wants the shop to take. The senior marketers judging Campaign's Agency of the Year Awards were so impressed with her entry for Agency Leader of the Year (advertising/creative) that many of them said they really wanted to meet her. She won the prize and who knows whether she might also at some point pick up their business. Given her seat on the new global BBH board, Martin should have an opportunity to broaden her sphere of influence even further this year.

As chosen by Maisie McCabe, UK editor

The women of Ukraine's adland

If you asked me two weeks ago, my choice would have been very different; most likely a woman in the arts or some rock star I fangirl from afar.

But, like a lot of people, my mind has been swept up by the strength of the Ukrainian people – by their conviction that they will prevail, while walls built by generations crumble around them.

Ever since Putin's forces began bombing Ukraine, I began documenting how ad agencies were supporting their Ukrainian employees. And I've been struck by the remarkable calmness of the mothers and daughters, juggling war, life and work.

So this one is for the women of Ukraine's adland. Those nursing their children, as bombs drop. Those launching media campaigns from bunkers. Those refusing to leave Ukraine.

They're showing the world what it means to be a Ukrainian woman and it's quite something. Slava Ukraini!

As chosen by Imogen Watson, work and inspiration editor

Little Simz


When I saw Little Simz perform at All Points East festival last summer, it was clear she knew how to connect with a crowd.

It's Little Simz's drive to inspire her fans that makes her a standout choice for this line-up.

Last October she fronted "Love the journey" by Adobe where she thanked her mum for supporting her journey into music. She frequently encourages young people to pursue a career in the creative industry in order to make it a more diverse and dynamic space.

When accepting her award for Breakthrough Artist at this year's Brit Awards she said: "I am living proof that if you work hard at something, no matter where you come from, no matter your background, no matter your race, you can do something extraordinary. So this is for all the kids dreaming, keep dreaming, keep pushing. I am you, you are me."

As chosen by Charlotte Rawlings, reporter

Elizabeth Day

Journalist, author and podcast host

Elizabeth Day is a journalist and best-selling author, who launched the podcast How To Fail in 2018.

How To Fail celebrates the things that haven't gone right and in every episode Day meets a well-known guest who explores some of their biggest failures and what they have learned from them. Day is a skilled interviewer who makes her guests feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and honest, leading to a refreshing reminder that everyone fails sometimes and that is okay.

She has also bravely spoken about her own struggle to have children, providing a safe space for many women (and men) who are going through similar issues but who might feel alone due to the fact that the topic is often seen as taboo.

As chosen by Ida Axling, news editor 

Janette Beckman


When British photographer Janette Beckman first started taking shots of bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols and The Jam for the NME and other music weeklies in the late 1970s, she was still an interloper in a man's world, despite the revolutionary fervour of the times. Beckman's work caught the keen eye of editor Nick Logan, who brought her in as contributor to the first issue of The Face.

She immediately felt at home in the more expansive environs of the monthly glossy, frequently shooting in a documentary style and capturing the evolving style tribes, from besuited south London mods to spiky-haired anarcho squatters and, increasingly, the peacocking regulars at clubs like Billy's and The Blitz, many of whom would be the magazine's core constituents for the remainder of the 1980s.

However, it was when Beckman was dispatched to cover an early hip hop showcase in London that things really began to kick into gear. Bedazzled by the sights and sounds of Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, Rock Steady Crew, Futura 2000 and Rammellzee, the smitten snapper jumped on a plane to New York and never came back.

Based in lower Manhattan, she was right there when downtown met uptown, with the fresh energy of hip hop crossing over with the wide-open possibilities of post-punk. Art, music, film and media all came together in a glorious mash-up. Inspired by the punk fanzine movement, Beckman immediately set about launching her own title to record all this activity, with the resulting Paper magazine lasting some six years.

She hung out with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and befriended early rap artists like Run DMC and Chuck D of Public Enemy, winning their trust and taking pictures that would be crucial staging posts on their way to mainstream stardom. She travelled to east LA, photographing the city's Latino gang culture, creating images that would be hugely influential in music, fashion and film across the world throughout the following decade.

Beckman's work has appeared in the Museum of the City of New York, in LA's Annenberg Museum, at various galleries in the US, the UK and Japan and featured in campaigns for brands including Levis, Apple, Stone Island, Shinola, Kangol and Schott. In 2016, she was commissioned to shoot Dior's latest collection after creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri saw her B&W images of early punk gigs.

Last year her Rebels From Punk to Dior book celebrated 40 years of work. Not that she's got any intention of slowing down. Beckman continues to be full of energy, creativity and ideas. She's a bit of a hero.

As chosen by Matt Barker, features editor

Florence Schechter

Founder and director of the Vagina museum, comedian, presenter, video producer and trainer

I have chosen Schechter not only because she is a woman of many talents – from being a video producer to a comedian – but also the creator of the sensational and first ever vagina museum.

After discovering there was no vagina equivalent to the penis museum in Iceland, Schechter set out on a journey to rectify that.

From glitterising tampons and menstrual cups to debunking vagina myths ("muff busters"), the museum is educational, and quite frankly.... a work of art.

Schechter set out to create something that not only raises awareness of the gynaecological anatomy and health but also gives people the confidence to talk about it.

Among all of this extraordinary work the museum also acts as a forum for feminism, women's rights, the LGBT+ community and the intersex community.

This year the museum collaborated with agency TheOr and designer Mirjami Qi to create eye-catching posters to promote the opening of their new premises in Bethnal Green – I literally cannot wait and look forward to what 2022 brings.

As chosen by Jamie Rossouw, data journalist

Sirin Kale

Freelance journalist

I first found Kale's writing in late 2020, and throughout 2021 I read nearly all of her pieces, finding them either unexpectedly fun, nearly always insightful, and sometimes harrowing.

She's perhaps most well-known for her 2020 series, "Lost to the virus" for The Guardian. Kale profiled individuals who had been lost to the first wave of coronavirus, and her work was later nominated for an Orwell Prize in 2021. Along with Lucy Osborne, she also exposed the sexual assault allegations against actor and producer Noel Clarke.

She works on the important stories, and the stories that are often forgotten, but I think half the reason I admire her and her work so much is that she never restricts herself to one specialism, and each piece will be just as thorough as the last. Yes, she can carry out a full-scale investigation, but she will also produce a fascinating piece on where household cats travel during the day when their owners are away.

It's been hard in the past few years, not to get bogged down with news of the pandemic, institutional corruption, and climate change. But Kale's writing reminds me that although it's important to address and educate ourselves on pressing issues, to focus on the little things, the day-to-day questions which make us laugh when we find the answer, is just as important.

As chosen by Shauna Lewis, reporter

Verica Djurdjevic

Chief revenue officer, Channel 4

I interviewed Channel 4's sales chief and "class contrarian" Verica Djurdjevic for a Campaign magazine feature last November and was struck by how well she has acquitted herself to taking on such a large and foreign role under such challenging circumstances.

After a highly successful tenure leading PHD, Djurdjevic joined C4 as it was under an ownership cloud and during the height of a pandemic that had caused huge declines in TV advertising spend.

The Leicester lass – proud of her humble roots – led C4 to an incredible recovery, reporting record revenues, while helping navigate the commercial aspects of a new strategy towards digital content and younger audiences. Djurdjevic's C4Sales team also picked up a Media Week Award last year.

What I admire most about Djurdjevic is the cool, calm, collected and inclusive nature of how she goes about her business. A true leader and inspiration this industry should celebrate.

As chosen by Arvind Hickman, media editor

Maria McDowell

Founder, Lollipop Mentoring

Just over a year ago in February 2021, McDowell founded Lollipop Mentoring, a mentorship programme for black women in advertising and marketing. One of the reasons behind the launch was to counter the damaging myths around the "aggressive black woman".

As someone who has experienced this kind of stereotyping, I can say that this is much needed.

McDowell, a former ad agency project manager, also launched Lollipop to address the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on black women's careers. Sadly, not all of the discourse on the "She-cession" caused by Covid-19 has taken an intersectional approach so giving this issue a wider airing is vital work.

A year on and it's heartening to report that the venture is flourishing to the point where McDowell is dedicated solely to running the programme and black women are being supported in their careers.

And if you are wondering why it's called Lollipop, here's the thinking from an article McDowell wrote for Campaign last year: "I wanted to convey playfulness, warmth and vibrancy."

As sweet a reason as any!

As chosen by Gemma Charles, deputy editor

Simone Biles

American gymnast

Simone Biles made the headlines in the summer after she pulled out of both the team final and the individual all-round at the Olympics in Tokyo. Biles said she needed to "focus on [her] my mental health" adding that "we have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do".

Biles, a six-time Olympic medalist, was praised by many athletes who said her brave move has laid the foundation for mental health in the sport. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps spoke of his struggles with mental health in the aftermath saying how hard he found it to get support.

In sport – an industry where athletes are often put under a lot of pressure – mental health is rarely spoken about publicly. Since Covid-19, many businesses have put a focus on their employees' mental health and wellbeing and sport should be no different.

Therefore, for Biles to not only pull out of the competition at a critical stage, but cite mental health as the reason, takes a lot of courage. It is a step in the right direction and could open doors for many people in the industry.

As chosen by Jyoti Rambhai, intelligence editor 

Ora Bytyçi

Programme director at SOS Children's Villages Kosovo

SOS Children's Villages is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that not only provides development assistance to children and young adults, but also protects their interests and rights.

As programme director, Bytyçi approaches her work with a steadfast attitude, going above and beyond for what is incredibly difficult work. She takes care of society's most vulnerable in a country where these assistance programmes make a huge difference.

Bytyçi was a refugee of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and knows the struggles of leaving home while also trying to provide for her children. She has since dedicated her life to charities and NGOs, working at Heifer International before her tenure at SOS Children's Villages.

On International Women's Day, I want to reflect on what the women in my life sacrifice for the betterment of their families and the people around them. 

Bytyçi is always one of the first to come to mind and I am proud to call her my aunt.

As chosen by Glauk Mahmutaj, data editor

Mindy Kaling

Actress, screenwriter, producer and director

I am very late to the party with the love for Mindy Kaling. Having spent lockdown catching up on TV (ok, I did also have a baby) I came across her work in shows such as The US Office, The Mindy Project and Never Have I Ever...

Yes, these all made me laugh out loud when the world around us wasn't a great place but what I really resonated with was watching shows featuring an Indian woman at the centre of a popular comedy.

Kaling is a force to be reckoned with. Her writing, wit and humour are just some of the reasons she is someone I admire.

As chosen by Gurjit Degun, creativity and culture editor

Hilary McKinlay

Formerly marketing for East Berkshire College

Someone has to pick their mum, right? Well mine definitely warrants selection.

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my dad's death. Other than the inevitable sadness & reflection, it served as a reminder of my mum's strength and bravery. A broken heart that will never heal hasn't stopped her living her life.

At 75 she's a full-time granny, golfer, artist and enjoys a far better social life than I do. I know how sad she sometimes gets on her own without dad around, but she refuses to give up and the positivity and love she radiates every day is an inspiration. My daughters are lucky to have a female role model like her in their lives.

As chosen by Rob McKinlay, head of audience engagement


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