The World's Most Creative Women: Shahnaz Ahmed, Livity

Shahnaz Ahmed, senior designer at Livity

In a continuing drive for greater diversity and inclusion in marketing and advertising, a new feature by The Drum highlights conversations with top creative women in the industry.

All were nominated for The Drum’s global Woman of the Year award at The Drum Creative Awards, sponsored by Facebook, One Minute Briefs and in partnership with Creative Equals. The award is designed to push equality boundaries within the creative industry to spark discussion and action.

From icons and pioneers to prominent creative directors and designers, we asked each of them how diversity creates better work, the positive changes the industry can make, what keeps these creatives going in an ever-changing world and how greater diversity can grow the business.

Kicking off the new year, this series will reveal more of The Drum's global Woman of the Year award nominees.

Today, we speak to Shahnaz Ahmed, senior designer at Livity.

From your experience and point of view, how does a more diverse creative team create better work? What have been some examples of that in action?

Quoting Cindy Gallop – "diversity raises the f*cking bar." Having talented people from different viewpoints and walks of life ensures we create meaningful work that lands authentically with the audience, while making loads of money. If not for moral sense of equality, it makes total business sense. It's a win-win for all.

British fashion brand Jigsaw's recent Immigration campaign was a bold and creative example of seeing a diverse team in action. Celebrating the 45 different nationalities it employs across the business, the campaign leads with its diversity, which is daring to say the least. They went all out – with a bold social media campaign and confidently taking over entire underground stations in London. They stood shamelessly alongside the importance of diversity, instead of being fearful of not being inclusive of everyone, and as a result is their most liked campaign yet.

How are the conversations around creativity, and specific work/projects, different with a more gender balanced team?

With a more balanced team, of not only equal gender but including people of colour, different socio-economic backgrounds, disabled and LGBTQ backgrounds, creativity flourishes at its best.

Minorities, in their very nature, have lifetimes of experience thinking creatively and inclusively, to ensure they communicate in the best way to fit in with everyone. When we include them in the conversation, we can come up with entire new ways to resolve creative problems. Imagine all the untapped creative solutions out there waiting to be discovered!

What changes around inclusion should the entire industry embrace today?

Nurture the diverse talent we already have, listen to them carefully and defencelessly, and learn how to keep them by empowering them.

Hire more diverse talent starting from the top all the way down. There won't be a drastic enough change unless it starts at leadership level.

With all of the issues women face in the creative sector, what keeps you in the industry?

I feel like we're at a tipping point in our industry – we are getting things badly wrong and being called out on it but it's helping to shape a better workplace of the future. I'm still in the industry because I want to be a part of shaping that future, put that ladder back down and give a helping hand to the incredible diverse talent out there (of which there is so much).

Being a brown female creative, I'm aware I'm a minority within a minority. But where, in the decade of being in the industry, I haven't seen many female – let alone minority female – leaders, I feel it's my responsibility to be seen by others who might think 'well if she's still here and doing alright, then maybe I'll stay here too'.

Will greater diversity in the industry ultimately save/grow it?

100%. There is no other direction to go than to be more diverse from the inside out. Greater diversity means better, more fulfilling workplaces, will allow our work to reach a greater audience more authentically, will make us more money and can ultimately only grow the industry.

The Drum Creative Awards puts creativity back in the spotlight and flies the flag for creativity during the digital revolution. These global awards are open to advertising agencies, design consultancies, digital agencies, production companies, marketing agencies, PR and more.

To register your interest for 2018, go to the event website.

This years awards were sponsored by: Facebook Creative Shop and One Minute Brief and partnered with: Creative Equals.

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