Merle Hall, CEO of Kinneir Dufort and fan of Vision, on diversity and creativity in the workplace
Gearing up to next week’s Vision we took some time to sit down with the inspiring Merle Hall of Bristol-based leading design and innovation consultancy, Kinneir Dufort to find out about her Vision for business today and why diversity in the workplace, to be explored by speaker Ali Hanan, is particularly pertinent
Which speakers are you looking forward to the most and why?
Ali Hanan, Founder of Creative Equals talk on ‘diversity’ is a really important issue that needs attention in business today. The ratio of women to men in product design and engineering consultancy is worse than in architecture (about 5% female), and Kinneir Dufort (KD) are on a mission to improve that with empowerment initiatives like Kerning The Gap. Ali is starting discussions with an advertising background but the principles are the same. The need for businesses to change has never been greater with only 0.02% of businesses qualifying to meet government legislation standards on what diversity in the workplace should look like.
The debate needs to happen with men and women in the room and I hope Ali’s talk at Vision, drives forward tangible actions for delegates to take responsibility in their own business.
You are championing diversity in the workplace, particularly to increase the number of females, why is this important?
At Kinneir Dufort, we focus on “designing a better world”. That could translate as designing a life-saving medical device, or engineering a super-lightweight water bottle for Coca Cola. Part of that vision and value creation also focuses on addressing the diversity challenge head on. Many teams look, feel, and act the same, however cultural diversity and equality must be chased after and celebrated, delivering inspiring and stimulating work places. In my opinion, women are often superlative listeners and communications, becoming the glue, which drives teams forward.The design process needs input and perspective from not just female designers, but also engineers and technologists to empathise with specific need states and develop best in class solutions.
We work alongside STEM focused organisations such as the Big Bang and Maggie Philbin’s Teen Tech initiative, to start impacting choices in the formative early school years.
What do you think the challenge is for creative agencies?
Creative agencies have been historically good at underselling themselves in their client’s board rooms, with unquantifiable definitions of the value they create.This is changing, but in increasingly competitive environments, clarity around a USP and value proposition are imperative.
Combine that with a clear purpose to enable guiding principles recognisable to teams. After all, we are just the sum of our parts, the people on this fantastic journey with us.
How can we increase the number of female owners/CEOs?
It’s important to understand that our only limitations are those we put on ourselves. Whether that’s “Imposter Syndrome” or other caveats with which we restrict our own potential. Mentoring, flexible working and support are all central to enabling and empowering the leaders of the future. Anything is possible, you just have to believe in yourself and never allow complacency to drift in.Finally, as Madelaine Albright controversially said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” We all have a responsibility to elicit change.