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Mentorship scheme tackling gender imbalance helps graduate win award

Wednesday 26 September 2018

A MENTORSHIP scheme aimed at redressing gender imbalance in the creative industries has helped a graduate win a prestigious award.

Sophie Stevens, who graduated from the University of Salford’s Graphic Design programme this summer, has won the Young Creative Network (YCN) student award for her advert for the Dogs’ Trust charity encouraging people to take rescue dogs as pets. Her design is now on display at London’s Barbican Centre.

Sophie, aged 21 and originally from Wolverhampton, benefited from a mentorship scheme set up last year by lecturer Jo Greenhalgh, which pairs final year students up with experienced professionals in the industry to help develop skills such as networking and prepare them for the world of work.

Insight into industry 

Sophie was paired with Olivia Downing, a copywriter from Manchester based design agency TBWA\Manchester and founder of networking group Chicks In Advertising.

Olivia helped her develop her ideas and provided her with an insight into what clients are looking for. 

She also launched a student bursary for a female creative student to win money Chicks in Advertising had raised and a place on the coveted School of Thought competition. Sophie won the independently judged bursary and is now halfway through the competition which sees the winner going to the Cannes Lions festival. 

More than 30 industry professionals have so far come forward to give their time to the mentorship scheme, from organisations such as the BBC and Manchester deign agencies, with many students reporting they found the experience invaluable. 

Gender imbalance

While the mentorship scheme is open to all students, Jo set it up in response to gender imbalance within the graphic design industry. 

Although national statistics show that 70% of graphic design students are female, only 11% go on to become creative directors.

Jo said: “There’s been a long standing issue with a gender imbalance across the industry, and I hope the mentorship scheme will do something to redress that – with students finding inspiration from successful female role models like Olivia.”

Inspirational role model

Sophie Stevens said: “It’s really inspiring to see a woman who is very much like myself who has become so successful. It makes you realise that there may be opportunities for me and other women like Olivia if I work hard.”

I never had a female mentor myself, and I've always been determined in my own career to give back to younger creative women as much as I could.

Olivia said: “I never had a female mentor myself, and I've always been determined in my own career to give back to younger creative women as much as I could. Being Sophie's mentor has been one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done. It's been fantastic to see her develop and improve, which all paid off when she won her well-deserved YCN award! 

“I hope more people get involved with this brilliant mentoring initiative that Jo has set up - it's been an enormously rewarding process.”