The World's Most Creative Women: Valerie Bounds, Uniform

Valerie Bounds, head of digital at Uniform

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 Valerie Bounds, head of digital at Uniform.

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?

Different backgrounds and personalities combined always deliver stronger creative thinking. My team at Uniform is a great example of this - we have diversity in gender, background, skills and personalities built from our own personal experiences inside and outside of work. All of us work very closely on the digital projects that come through Uniform from the initial conceptual thinking through prototyping and iterating to the build...and it’s fascinating to see how that diversity transpires into different perspectives.

The bigger the thinking we’re allowed to do for a client, the more apparent the diversity is when brainstorming. And in the end, hopefully, that transpires into an idea/project for the client that really helps them connect with a wider audience!

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

I personally dislike the Mars/Venus stereotypical gender thinking, saying, for example, that women are better communicators and more empathic, so it’s difficult for me to talk about a gender-balanced team in that vein.

I do accept that for various reasons men and women may be more likely to have more dominant traits - but that's not necessarily how it should be. Ultimately, I think minds are minds, and we all have different talents to offer.

I think one of the challenges is that different industries attract different minds, and you find a lot of people in the creative industries are strong communicators regardless of gender. For me, gender is part of a wider mix around the conversation around diversity - in terms of background, age, personality, and skills. Those differences are vital in getting rich input to creative conversations and ideas.

What changes around inclusion should the entire industry embrace today?

Getting more visibility for women at all levels, but particularly as leaders, is so important. The creative and digital industries are still heavily dominated by men at board/ senior level - and the pay gap is also still a reality.

There are not enough women in creative director, technical creative and development roles. Younger women need to see this as a viable option with role models they can follow. They need a clear career progression path. They need clarity on how to get into those roles and a belief their achievements will be recognised. And they need equal pay, of course.

Alongside this, generally, the industry needs to lead on practically enabling both women and men to fit their jobs into a fuller life - whatever that means for them. They can do this through enabling flexible work, benefits, and supporting their goals inside and outside of work. I have to say Uniform are very progressive in this way - one of the most progressive places I have worked in terms of supporting quality of life.

We're in a position of power in our industry also because through our work we influence a very wide audience. There's a responsibility that goes with that - so we need to be clear on inclusion/equality, and what that means so we can lead by example - and that will infiltrate through to our work.

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

Well there are some issues, but I wouldn't say it’s worse than other sectors and, as I said above, a lot of people are very aware of the issues and actively trying to change them. It’s great to see the fantastic initiatives like InnovateHer coming through to encourage girls and young women into the industry, and to show them the possibilities.

I love working in this industry. Thanks to it, I've had two decades of highly interesting, challenging and rewarding work. I can't imagine working anywhere else where I’d get to work across such a range of topics and projects - and with some exceptionally creative and clever minds. And we get to see how our work affects real life. No two days are ever the same. My job has transformed since I started in industry - no one could have seen the huge changes coming through emerging technology or how creative and tech would transform the world in such a small space of time. Who wouldn't want to be involved in that?

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

For certain. Diversity of every sort really is the root to creativity. I hope we won't even be talking about this in a few years. The aspiration would be that the standard will be a fully diverse 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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