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Women struggle to sell themselves in creative industries

The creative sector must better support young female talent who come up against personal and professional barriers

Many women struggle with self-promotion, meaning not enough are entering and progressing through the creative industries, according to co-founder of OK Mentor Liz Stone.

“There are so many creative brilliant young women who are carving out their own paths while they’re at university, but often they’re not sure how to sell themselves to employers when they're entering the job market,” she told HR magazine.

“I run my own creative agency and go through hundreds of CVs. One young woman’s CV looked very thin, but I went on her Instagram page and she’d done all of these brilliant things that she hadn’t mentioned in her application. A lot of the time university courses are very good at teaching the technical skills but they don’t always have the resources to show people how to market themselves, and how to make it in the business world.”

Stone said that women can struggle to progress for a mixture of personal and professional reasons: “Some of it's down to a lack of flexible working. Creative businesses can require long hours, and when some women have extra responsibilities or want to become mothers there just aren’t the policies there to support them. But it’s personal too – it can be really intimidating to make your voice heard, pitch ideas or ask questions in a room full of older men.”

It’s important for creative firms to have female leaders who represent their customer bases, she added: “It’s definitely true that for big beauty and fashion brands women are still the main customers, but there are still a lot of men in those top positions. That’s definitely beginning to change with companies like Bumble and Diptyque, and we’re really excited to have women who have been through the same challenges in getting ahead helping the next generation.”

To tackle the issue women-only mentoring scheme OK Mentor was launched last week (22 August) as a way to encourage more young women into the creative industries. The scheme is exclusively for female undergraduates, who will receive guidance and advice for developing skills not often taught in universities such as contracting, pitching, writing contracts, dealing with taxes and building a personal brand.

Tuition will be delivered in the form of a 12-hour intensive programme across two weeks and four sessions covering different aspects of business training and a personal development framework.

The mentorship will be free of charge and open to all female undergraduates currently in their final year of study, postgraduates and those with equivalent work experience.

Mentors include Amanda Morgan, UK managing director at Byredo and Diptyque; Whitney Rosenthal, head of emerging talent at Instagram; and Naomi Walkland, senior marketing manager for EMEA at Bumble.

Stone added: "For the first few years it can be a really difficult world to navigate. So having someone who has been through it to guide you, even if it’s just for an hour over coffee, can be really invaluable."