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Meet the Class: Inken Rohweder

March 9, 2017

This week marks International Women’s Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made towards gender equality in the creative industries and beyond, but also an important reminder of how far we still have to go. Inken Rohweder made a name for herself as a freelance art and creative director for a variety of eclectic clients with over a decade of thought-provoking work.

Inken secured a place on our Executive MBA program after winning the Helga and Michael Conrad Scholarship for Women in Creative Leadership. She stopped by the Berlin School Blog to talk about her journey of balancing an esteemed leadership role with the responsibilities of motherhood, to discuss the need for a more diverse work force in the advertising world, and to offer a valuable insight into the double standards of the industry. Although the number of women within the domain is rising, the further up the ladder we climb, the presence of female figures in management and leadership roles becomes more and more scarce.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I am a designer with a passion for strategy and concept. I entered the advertising industry in 2002. Today I lead a network of professionals providing a variety of creative services. With my husband, my toddler son and my infant daughter, I commute between Hamburg and Zurich – facing the same problems as most working moms, but also enjoying the flexibility of working independently. Besides work, I support a local hospital in Cambodia through my charity operation, based in Switzerland. The project has grown increasingly important to me and made me realize that I do favor work that has a social impact combined with a product that quite simply pleases the buyer.


What was your favorite ad campaign to work on last year and why?

As mentioned before I have two kids. One of them was born last year and is a beautiful replacement for the ad campaign I did not get to work on. To be honest, being pregnant and having a child did not pair too well with clients anyway!


What would you say is the greatest obstacle to creative leaders in 2017?

To keep up. To stay ahead. To anticipate what could be next. As a leader, you need to understand the synergy effects of today’s technical advancements and social media sidekicks.

It seems impossible to keep up with all the possibilities on all the channels even if you are a user of social media. For me, this is as much a challenge as it is an obstacle: on a good day, I am delighted about yet another innovation and want to stay part of the game; on a bad day, I feel confused and left behind because I do not feel the magic of snaps, tweets, hashtags or gribls. (The latter just being innovated as we speak...)


What do you think are the benefits of greater diversity within the realm of business?

The German “Gesamtverband Kommunikationsagenturen GWA” gives an insight into gender distribution in the creative business: The majority of employees without personnel responsibility is female, but just under a third of management is. Yet over 80% of consumer decisions are made by women. I used to believe anyone can advertise anything for anybody, it depends on the capability of imagination alone and not the gender, but does it? I cannot answer that - I would be guessing. I do know that women are desperately missing out on role models further up the ladder, and if creative agencies in Germany do not want to lose the battle for (diverse) talent, they need to become more progressive in their structural concepts. Meaning: part-time work, job-sharing, home-office solutions must become self-evident. I would hope that a diverse management team would take these relevant topics into more serious consideration than a straight (male) one. Most women will probably have experiences on their career path that might make them more aware of existing inequalities at the workplace.


How do you think the role of women will affect the future leadership of creative businesses?

I believe any leader, regardless of gender, needs to find ways to integrate any sort of talent to advance. Clearly, every tool at our disposal is needed to tackle today’s challenges! Talent neither ends with motherhood nor starts with being male in the first place, but this fact still has to sink in. To look closely at the role of women at the workplace – creative businesses or not – will lead to the identification of double standards and bias. Once you know and acknowledge what you are up against, you can look for solutions as a leader. As a side effect leadership style will evolve, because it adjusts to the demands of a modern society. Isn’t it remarkable today to acknowledge that when I was born in 1976, German women still had to ask for written consent of their husbands to work at all?