8 Mar 2018

Internationally inspired

At Superunion, with our scale and creative and strategic expertise, comes diversity of experience and opinion. 


This year, for International Women’s Day at Superunion, we wanted to celebrate the women who inspire us; share and discuss our views of how gender is presented in marketing and communications around the world; and acknowledge what we can do more of to keep creatively pushing the boundaries.

This morning we hosted an internal breakfast panel with Superunion UK’s Digital Creative Director Marta Swannie, Client Partner Arlaine Shepherd, Managing Partner Christina Futcher, Senior Strategist Andi Davids and guest speaker Karen Blackett OBE, WPP’s UK Country Manager and Chairwoman of MediaCom UK.  The panel has been a catalyst for discussion; we didn’t expect to come away with a uniform opinion, and we shouldn’t, the goal was to come away thinking.  As Francisca Posada Brown, one of our London strategists wrote: ‘We have a very powerful role in the world when it comes to the influence we can have. We should use it to lead the way.’

Part of the beauty of an organisation, such as Superunion, with global scale is its diversity. When you ask 750 people across 24 offices and 18 countries anything, you’re going to get a huge range of responses. Add to that a depth of creative and strategic expertise, hugely varied experiences and opinions, different cultures and backgrounds: then things get really interesting. We asked our entire network which women in business and the creative industries inspire them.

What came back was as diverse as you might expect. The examples ranged from global CEOs to designers, famous actors to family members. But there were also certain commonalities. It seems that even with our breadth and diversity, there are certain ‘types’ of people, in this case women, that we tend to admire. Perhaps that should be obvious given the fact that (excluding certain canine friends in our offices) we are all human. Still, it’s rather encouraging that our differences seem to be in some way compatible.

Read on to discover some of the women in business and the creative industries, and their qualities, that individuals in our global community admire.

Success as a minority

Many of our answers referred to women who had succeeded in historically male-dominated industries. Often these women not only demonstrate excellence in these environments but actively pave the way for other women rising up behind them.

Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder & CEO of Bumble, and co-founder of Tinder.  In a predominantly male-dominated tech industry, Whitney has created a platform for men and women that goes beyond dating, and into the world of friendship, business, and social change, built on the idea of equality. It’s valued at $1bn within 3 years, demonstrating not only the power of the platform, but the power and value of women as a community, as consumers, and as drivers of change.”
Po Kay Lee, Singapore 

“I’m inspired by self-made women, women who have taken control of their lives. Chiara Ferragni is one, six months pregnant and president and CEO of her own company; and Huda Katan who created an entire cosmetic line because she couldn’t find a product to meet her needs, a line that now has makeup hues for everyone.” 
María Lara, Buenos Aires 

Sarah Wood OBE, co-founder and CEO of Unruly. Female role model, inspirational woman in tech, champion of diversity in the workplace, associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge, co-founder of City Unrulyversity – and much more!”
Francisca Posada Brown, London

Dame Helena Morrissey is absolutely inspirational. She was CEO of Newton when we initially started our first project there, and has moved now to be Head of Personnel at Legal & General. As well as leading at these great companies, she’s also a founder of the 30% Club, which aims to get a greater representation of women onto the boards of FTSE100 companies. And she’s also managed to have nine children during her career too.”
Pippa Chishick, London

Nicky Bullard. She’s amazing, and sort of a mentor to me. She’s a chairman and CCO. She helps women to thrive in the creative industry and inspires everyone with her achievements. She also contributes to an intern bursary called Creative Equals to help women work in London at creative agencies. She’s my inspiration!”
Leah Bravo, London

 “In a very male-dominated business and part of the world, Lebanese Director Nadine Labaki has managed to break-through and disrupt her industry, creating her very own signature and style in music videos and movie direction that many have followed since.”
Farid Chami, Dubai

Reese Witherspoon because she is an absolute boss! She’s proven her acting ability and has now turned that into a female driven production company.  She encourages ambition in EVERYONE.”
Sophie Martin, London

Sheryl Sandberg, for her ability to lead in a male dominated business (and country). An inspiring and proactive thought leader who constantly promotes women’s roles in corporations.” 
Ubonwan Khorthavornwong, Bangkok

“The big ones like Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah, Lena Dunham (the list goes on) who have publicly spoken up and made moves to empower women everywhere. But really, the small ones, like every self-made woman who has believed in themselves and started a business for example those on the Girlboss Podcast”
Karen Yau, New York

“I'm inspired by female entrepreneurs who are actively challenging norms and creating solutions that support women to progress, and achieve at a high level - Sally Krawcheck of ElleVest is an awesome business figure who has created a platform that helps provide women with financial independence.”
Jess Lehman, New York


We’ve all experienced dissatisfaction in the world around us, whether it’s the inability to find the right product, a repeated inconvenience, or simply something we don’t like. But some people decide enough is enough, and actually change it. These admirable women have taken action and have often been hugely successful as a result.

“I’m inspired by self-made women, women who have taken control of their lives. Chiara Ferragni is one, six months pregnant and president and CEO of her own company; and Huda Katan who created an entire cosmetic line because she couldn’t find a product to meet her needs, a line that now has makeup hues for everyone.”
María Lara, Buenos Aires

Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet, for creating one of the most influential social networking clubs out of a simple pain-point and making it easier to share impartial parenting advice.”
Iain Ellwood, London

“American power lifter Kortney Olson, who set up her own training clothing brand for women after experiencing personal prejudices due to her body shape.  She has created a brand that has really connected to many women globally because she's given them a voice and confidence.”
Christina Futcher, London

Leaders in their field

Women demonstrating sheer skill, talent and innovation serve as an inspiration for many, both in their field and beyond.

Es Devlin for her absolutely stunning, instantly iconic, go-big-or-go-home stage sets and installations. I find all of her work a reminder that you can create unforgettable work with a simple idea, executed really, really well (and really big).”
Marc Spicer, London

 “The late Zaha Hadid. Beyond her work, I will always admire how she made it to be one of the greatest female architects not only in the region, but in the world. And in the middle east, that’s tough.”
Farah Gamal, Duba

Pip Black and Joan Murphy who designed the fitness studio Frame, their unique model has disrupted the way people view fitness and gym memberships”
Vanessa Davey, London

“My creative idol has always been Paula Scher who has been at the top of her game, doing great, great work for many years.”
Sonja Fahn, Cape Town

“In Spain, we’re fortunate to be able to look up to the likes of Ana Patricia Botín (President of Santander), Ana María Llopis (President of DIA Group), Rosa María García (President of Siemens Spain), Esther Alcocer Koplowitz (President of FCC constructions), María Garaña (President of Microsoft Ibérica), and Marta Martínez (President of IBM Spain). It’s great to have these women leading huge companies in our country, and it something we want to see more and more of.” Almudena Clemente, Madrid

“[Melanie Campbell (Marketing Portfolio Manager) at Pernod Ricard South Africa.]  To me she has taken a global brand from near extinction to its former glory. She has set new standard for alcohol brands on the continent and continues to outshine her male counter parts in the industry.  Whilst doing that, she is a mother, wife, spiritual and continues to give to her community as well.”
Jacqui Richards, Cape Town

Fearless individuals

People who are unafraid, who say what they think, who stand up for what they believe in. People who don’t feel the need to conform, and instead do what they think is right. People like these women.

Cindy Gallop. Fearless. A brilliantly loud voice in the industry."
Mark Wood, London

Cindy Gallop because she isn’t afraid to talk about the difficult subjects and call people out.”
Antonia Gaynor, New York

Barbara Kruger. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her work in MOMA when I was in school, so powerful, simple and strong. I learnt from her that if you want to say it, say it out loud and direct, without hesitation.”
Ray Lan, Shanghai

Jessica Walsh, because she does her own thing and doesn’t conform!”
Becki Sewell, London

“I think Jessica Walsh is fearless, I was so impressed by her when she presented at Cannes.”
Andy Reynolds, Hong Kong 

Kelly Anna is an illustrator who changed her career path at university and pursued her passion relentlessly ever since. She now boasts clients like Nike, Topshop, H&M and has celebrity fans of her fashion prints including Beyoncé and Cara Delevigne.  And Jack Renwick, the scariest but most inspiring woman I’ve ever worked with!”
Sam Hall, London

“Generally, the women in business that inspire me most, are those that haven’t achieved success simply by playing the man’s game, or moulding themselves into an example of desired femininity – but by forging their own path – as a WOMAN, flaws and idiosyncrasies included. This is a funny list of entertainers – because technically entertainment is a business(!): Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Nicks, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Amy Schumer, Ilana Glazer, Lady Gaga
Sheila Sheedy, New York

Mentors and educators

Inspirational figures who take the time to teach and guide others can be hugely influential in shaping both industries and individuals.

Brené Brown is a great inspiration for me. She is a researcher who has spent years studying human emotions and connection. She defines herself as a recovered perfectionist and I am learning from her work how to live an imperfect life with gratitude. And from the creative industry, Debbie Millman. Not only a writer and designer, but also an educator who helps design students be better professionals.”
Maria Spitaleri, Buenos Aires

“Aside from her creative talent and design ability, Debbie Millman co-founded the world’s first graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is host of Design Matters, where she has interviewed some of the worlds’ most influential creative types. In essence, Debbie has demonstrated to young designers, like myself, that being a designer is not just creating beautiful packaging or an iconic logo, but rather a way of approaching the world. A philosophy, an inherent desire to make things make sense to people in the simplest and most beautiful way…She truly believes in the power of creativity and that great brands can use design and story-telling to genuinely connect with people,”
Kyley Potgieter, Johannesburg

“For the main phases of my career I've always worked for women, so my various bosses have inspired me over time both in the UK and in Asia. I'm still in contact with all of them and they continue to be mentors to me.”
Alex Clegg, London

“My first boss and creative director Zoe Wishart. She saw my potential, she nurtured me, she helped me develop into the designer and person I am today.”
Dan Ellis, Singapore

“Out of all my ex female CDs it has got to be Iris Yu, the key lady who taught me all the printing, design programming and client communications skills that I need to know to survive in this industry! She is witty, fierce, tough, super creative, very detailed, poised even if deadline’s approaching, patient, love to share, cares for us, never moan, and is literally, the humblest designer I have ever met. I love her.”
Kitty Chan, Hong Kong


Finally, many in our community admired women not only for their success in a traditional sense, but also for their positive personal traits and qualities.

Natalie Rastoin, President of Ogilvy France, is the perfect combination of a brilliant brain, fast thinking, hard-working, great emotional intelligence and a good sense of humour.”
Camille Yvinec and team, Paris

“My younger sister, Clara. She has so many positive qualities without any of the undesirable baggage – confidence without arrogance; competitiveness without bitterness or envy; charity without conceitedness; achievement without ego or a sense of entitlement; ethics without self-righteousness.”
Lucas Morel, London

Ellen Degeneres. For being a successful businesswoman who’s dedicated her life to being kind to others. She’s managed to build an empire out of her comedy and now has a platform to help others in entertainment.”
Mariana Maldonado, Bogotá