Creative Networks x Kerning the Gap

Growing Pains


14 March 2024


Blenheim Walk



Kerning the Gap: Growing Pains

Kerning the Gap: Growing Pains

Sarah Dear

Sarah Dear

Jane Bowyer

Jane Bowyer

Poonam Saini

Poonam Saini

Thursday 14 March 2024 5:00pm-7:30pm

5:00pm - Drinks in the foyer
5:45pm - Auditorium opens to take your seats
6:00pm - Talk starts

Booking is essential as places are limited.

Location: Leeds Arts University, Blenheim Walk, Leeds LS2 9AQ

Join us at Leeds Arts University as Creative Networks and Kerning the Gap join forces to bring you Creative Women in the North, in celebration of International Women's Day.

Poonam Saini, Sarah Dear and Jane Bowyer join us to chat about their career journeys, provide insight into the creative industries in the North and consider what they wish they'd known when they graduated.

What does it take to be a successful woman in the Creative Industries?

“63% of graphic design students are women; yet only 17% are Creative Directors.”

Our industry is full of women. And yet, we currently only hold 17% design leadership positions, with even less as agency principals. And our stats across the broader diversity spectrum only get worse. BAME representation in leadership roles is just 12%.

This lack of diversity at the top not only affects the opportunities and environments we create as an industry, it also impacts our pay gap, where women on average still only earn 80p on the pound compared to men.

As a micro industry, with 98% of our businesses having less than 50 people in them, we need to come together to tackle these problems, and share the brilliant thinking we’re capable of to show industry how to change.

About the speakers

Poonam Saini, Creative Director at Kiss Branding

At just 26 years old, Poonam, a young British South Asian CD, co-established KISS Branding, a design studio that transforms brands into immediate pleasure for old and new audiences. Poonam's approach is about ruffling a few feathers, questioning the norm and disrupting the old way of thinking for the better. Her studio is sector agnostic, meaning they bring a fresh perspective to a variety of brands, including viral projects like The Pink Ladoo Project, social gaming venues like Lane 7, and revolutionary city developments reshaping urban landscapes in both Leeds and London.

Sarah Dear, Managing Director at Born Ugly

Sarah has over 25 years’ brand consultancy experience. She loves the buzz and pace of the retail world and has spent most of her career in the sector, working with clients such as ASDA, M&S, Argos and Tesco as well as North American retailers Walmart and Loblaw.

Her experience focusses on directing brand strategy as well as brand identity, design and application across multiple channels. Sarah is a non executive board director of the Leeds BID, the goal of which is to make Leeds a more attractive and successful city and sits on the council for the Creative Industries Federation.

Jane Bowyer, Independent Artist and Designer, A Studio Called Jane

Jane Bowyer is a graphic designer and illustrator specialising in illustration, web design, branding and print. Her practice balances playfulness with purpose to deliver work that is both beautifully crafted and leaves a lasting impression.

After being the Senior Designer at Raw Design Studio, she now works as an independent designer and illustrator working directly with clients and with design studios on a freelance/consultancy level.

Working on creative projects for clients from a range of industries and disciplines, Jane's focus is to make effective, thoughtful work that has a positive impact on the client and end user. She is supported by a network of talented collaborators and suppliers, who help her to deliver the best work possible from concept to production.

For a long time, Jane has had an interest in social causes, aiming to use her skills as a designer and storyteller to inform and provoke peoples' thoughts and actions. In her own time, she has run workshops with young women on the representation of women in online and offline media and has worked on several personal and commercial projects for causes she feels passionately about.

About Creative Networks

High-profile speakers entertain, challenge and inspire their audiences as they recount their career journeys and provide insights into the latest industry developments.

Creative Networks is Leeds Arts University's own major professional events programme. It’s a fantastic chance to meet other professionals and hear fascinating talks from industry leading speakers.

About Kerning the Gap

“There’s one goal: we need to see more diversity in leadership roles.”

Kerning the Gap is a community that Nat Maher started in 2015, aimed at getting more women into leadership roles within the design industry. For several years she had been noticing less and less women at the tables she sat at and asking herself the question “where have all the women gone…?”.

After reaching her first MD role, she finally having the confidence to say she was a bone fide ‘woman in leadership’ (feel familiar?) and felt both a need and a responsibilityto do something to unite the agencies in our sector, to come together to start challenging the issues that are leading to such a lack of diversity at the top of our field.

Our aim to see more diversity in leadership roles and by doing so, improve the opportunities for people at every level, and 1) make it accessible to all levels, 2) invite every discipline to the conversation and 3) to acknowledge men as a part of the solution, not the problem.

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