Cultural Leadership Programme

Women to Watch

Cultural Leadership Programme publishes inaugural ‘Women to Watch’ list.

The Cultural Leadership Programme (CLP) unveiled its first-ever list of ‘Women to Watch’. Featuring 50 female leaders, directors, producers and curators from across the UK, the list celebrates women who are who are already making a huge contribution to the rich cultural life of the UK, and have the potential to rise to the very top.

In the coming years, these ‘Women to Watch’ will be leading the way in design, libraries, literature, museums, heritage, music, performing and visual arts, the historic environment and creative businesses; redressing the gender balance at senior leadership levels in the cultural and creative sector.

The list also celebrates the rich diversity of women in the sector, highlighting talent from a variety of backgrounds – from independent consultants to business directors and those working within some of our leading organisations – and aims to inspire future generations to be equally dynamic and ambitious.

The list includes five women in dance; six in music; five in design, branding and digital media; five in theatre; eight in literature and libraries and four in museums and heritage.

CLP received a large number of high-quality nominations from across the UK and the final 50 were chosen by an eminent judging panel, made up of figures from the cultural and creative industries: the media and popular culture. Broadcaster Jenni Murray OBE chaired the panel, made up of Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae; Kwame Kwei-Armah, actor and director; Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of Arts Council England; Rita Clifton, CEO of Interbrand; Sarah Weir, Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy for the Olympic Delivery Authority and multi award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor.

Jenni Murray, said: “The final 50 women were chosen after a great deal of consideration by the judging panel and represent some of our most ambitious and talented cultural leaders.

“I speak for the whole judging panel when I say that choosing a final list from amongst so many high quality nominations was both a delight and a challenge. While we are obviously celebrating the achievements of outstanding individuals, it is also important to see these women as a collective force and as representative of women’s potential to reach the top of their game within this, and any other, sector.”

Sophie Thomas, founder of sustainable design agency Thomas.Matthews and one of the 50 Women to Watch, has led on many significant projects including the highly acclaimed ‘No Shop’ campaign for Friends of The Earth. “For me, building a successful design business has never been focused on creating enough profit to be able to buy myself a yacht,” she says. “Like many female headed practices we are powered by passion and drive to build up benefit for all. It is therefore great to be recognised for this and I am enormously proud of all our achievements”

Seonaid Daly, Producer of the Glasgow Film Festival, has secured a 25% increase in total attendance from 2008 to 2009: “I believe a national campaign such as this is very important and will inspire younger generations to enter the creative industries and strive to succeed at the highest level,” she says.

Appointed to the role of Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces at the age of 28, Lucy Worsley has since created a team of young and creative curators who are re-inventing what curatorship means in historic sites. She says: “There are some great role models for ambitious and clever women in heritage and museums, but there should be so many more.”

Other ‘Women to Watch’ include Sally Goldsworthy, Director of Discover, the children’s story making centre in Stratford, East London; Ruth Gould, who has excelled in leading a once small disability arts organisation to host one of the biggest Deaf & Disability Arts Festivals in the UK, DaDaFest and Juliana Farha, the first entrepreneur to innovate in the fields of social media and classical music, through her online website Dilettante Music.

Cumbria-based Julie Tait, has become one of the leading players in the Street Arts sector over the past few years, through heading up the popular festival Lakes Alive: “I think the cumulative effect of recognising the impact of 50 women working in this important sector cannot be underestimated,” she says.

“It is all about recognising talent and achievements but it’s also about showcasing the distinctive contribution women are making through new and creative approaches to leadership which I hope will inspire and motivate future generations to be ambitious in this sector.”

The achievements of all 50 women will be celebrated at an evening reception tonight (10 March) and all women will become part of an ongoing Women to Watch network, to aid their career development.

Cultural Leadership