• Transform magazine
  • February 04, 2023

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Five minutes with Emily Fox

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For International Women's Day Emily Fox, creative director at brand design agency Lewis Moberly, speaks to Transform magazine about how important it is for businesses to foster honest discussions with staff about personal issues and aspirations, such as wanting to have a family, and how this is actually one of the single-most effective means of driving employee engagement and retention. She also delves into how the notion of confidence in business, especially if you’re a female, plays out in the working world.

Have you ever encountered issues with being a woman and mother whilst being in a position of power?

I have always been very fortunate to work with a lot of women so in my experience, being a successful woman and mother is not unusual. Occasionally, you might have a moment with someone in your professional life when you realise that there are some fundamental differences in the ways in which men and women approach opportunities and challenges, but that is part of the rich tapestry of life! It is vital that we are able to empathise and respond with all perspectives in mind.

Why is it important for businesses to foster honest discussions with staff about personal issues and aspirations - such as wanting to have a family? How is this one of the single most effective means of driving employee engagement and retention?

This is absolutely vital and something that we have not addressed in a satisfactory way throughout society. It is something that has in fact regressed as a direct result of lockdown. A huge proportion of women, especially those with young children, have struggled to hold on to their jobs during the pandemic. That’s a huge amount of untapped talent - and untapped talent that is most likely VERY good at multitasking! It is primarily women who have been affected by this the most, although that’s not to say fathers haven’t also suffered. Like many other challenges and issues, gender inequality has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Once these talented parents have taken a number of years to raise young children it becomes a huge challenge for them to get back into the workplace. Businesses are losing talent because of this. 

How does the notion of confidence in business- especially if you’re a female- play out in the working world?

Confidence is key - but being confident can be a challenge in itself for many women, in my experience. There is an element of you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We’re told that women in business need to be confident but not ‘bossy’ but men are rarely labelled ‘bossy’. It signifies a much larger problem at hand: the narrative that women can and should have it all. In reality, women achieve ‘success’ through making tough compromises and ‘success’ looks different for everyone. 

How is the creative industry challenging negative perceptions tied to gender stereotypes? 

Brands and those shaping them are impelled to respond to a rapidly changing world. The emergent consumer groups tend to strongly reject branding aimed at a particular gender. The rise in gender neutral beauty and grooming brands is testimony to this, alongside increasingly diverse brand ambassadors that promote campaigns. Everyday branding helps dismantle gender stereotypes. This entirely positive step forward continues at a pace – it’s very exciting to help design the future. 

What is your number one piece of advice to anyone wanting to become a creative director or for anyone wanting to have a career in the creative industries?

Ensure the creative director role is right for you. You need to enjoy the game, interacting with clients, presenting and advocating your studio’s work. You also need to be constantly excited and challenged by the work coming from your team and never lose the desire to push it further. When you are starting out in your career, it’s great to experience different studios and work cultures by taking on internships. Often the freedom to do this is not possible, years down the line, when you have a great job and a mortgage!