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Did you know that women make up 55% of the population in the UK? Did you also know that women only make up 30% of the House of Commons and that just 7% of directors behind 2016’s most successful Hollywood films were women? International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates and honours the accomplishments females have made and remembers the struggles they have faced.

Here at SMACK we believe in the importance of equal rights and do all we can to empower women in the workplace. With that in mind, we thought we’d grab five minutes with two of SMACK’s most inspirational women, co-directors Lubna Keawpanna and Aalia Walker. Here’s what they have to say about being successful entrepreneurs and what it takes to be women in the creative industry...


Tell us what inspired you to start your own creative agency?

I’ve always been a self starter and have been freelancing since uni as well as previously running a design studio. Teaming up with Aalia and Sel only made sense as we were working together as separate entities anyway. We wanted to do good work that made an impact and we’re lucky to have done that over the last 5 years!

What advice would you give to your daughter when she is old enough to enter the workplace?

Work hard, be true to the work she does, keep learning and to remind her that she’s just as capable as anyone else in the workplace, nothing should stop her from achieving her goals!

Advertising and design can be a predominantly male environment, what challenges have you faced over the years?

I’ve been very lucky and always been respected by male colleagues and bosses alike, certain male clients, now that’s another story. But I have been dragged to meetings as they wanted a ‘girl’ to be there.

How do you keep a work-life balance?

It's not easy juggling a business and a little one. I’m making a conscious effort to take more time out to do fun stuff with the family and keep some me time to keep fit - my tip is put it in the diary set the time aside, or it’ll always be taken up by something else.

What is your greatest achievement in the workplace?

At SMACK I was most excited was winning our first awards, it meant what we were doing worked and the industry acknowledged it too. Also I love mentoring and watching talent grow and evolve.

Who inspires you in business?

Businesswomen who have left a mark on me are the likes of Anita Roddick, The Body Shop which was such a novel and inspiring concept for me as a child, Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish, Not on The High Street and their brilliant concept of an online platform that would represent small businesses who could not afford a high street presence - they have helped a lot of women push their businesses through their platform.


What does international women’s day mean to you?

It’s a day when women should remember how far they’ve come, but also a reminder of how much further we’ve got to go to truly be equal.

As the co-founder of a business, how do you support and encourage both men and women in the workplace?

We don’t discriminate between men and women in the workplace. What we do try and do is encourage our team members to play to strengths.

Has being female ever hindered your career progression?

Definitely, I worked at a large corporate notorious for making women redundant after returning from maternity leave. I received an award for outstanding contribution to the company, went on maternity leave, and was made redundant within six months of returning.

How do you inspire your daughter?

In her first week of school, my daughter came home and asked “Are boys cooler than girls?” Me and my husband always encourage our daughter and remind her that there isn’t anything she can’t do. I’m really proud of what feminists my daughter and son are.

What’s the most empowering advice you’ve ever received?

I was invited for an interview for the position of Managing Director for an agency a number of years ago. After the interview the female owner of the company told me “You talked us into giving you the job - but you then talked yourself out of it.  Women always limit and doubt their potential. Don’t - you are capable”.

Are there women in business or otherwise that you think are changing the world?

Absolutely, in business, arts, politics, science and beyond. And we’re a better world for it.



Aalia, Marketing Director: Maya Angelou - for her beautiful words of wisdom. They’re words to live your life by.

Lubna, Creative Director: Ellen Degeneres, she’s not just a talk show host, she has a big heart and stands up for what she believes in. She isn't afraid to speak out when something is wrong and shows people how to stand up to issues without hostility. She’s extremely charitable, has changed perceptions for the LGBT community and reminds us that being different is acceptable. And of course she’s absolutely hilarious and is the voice for Dory - what’s not to love 😉

Emma, Senior Account Manager: Emma Watson- you may think actress, celebrity or style icon when you first think of her or even still see her as a 'child star', but over the last few years she's done some seriously powerful campaigning for gender equality and has launched her own international project aimed at challenging gender stereotypes. I'm glad she received the 'Woman of the Year' award at the Elle Style Awards and can't think of a bjetter fit for the role of 'Belle' in 'Beauty and the Beast'.

Riccardo, Account Planner: It’s hard to pick one.. The most inspirational women are in my group of friends - they are artists, entrepreneurs, social workers and academics. The thing about them that inspires me is that they question the norm, they are bold, they go beyond, they live in the moment; I’m always learning from them.

Kelly, Head of Marketing: Michelle Obama- I think it could have been really easy for her to fall into a 'traditional' first lady role of supporting wife. However she knew that this was her one opportunity to not just inspire her daughters but women all over the world. She is strong, smart, funny and down-to-earth. Michelle Obama for next US President please. I also come from a very female dominated family - two sisters, four nieces, three great-nieces and my own daughter. All of them inspire me in their own way every day!  

Soumbul, Designer: Malala Yousufzai- She’s a badass 19 year old activist who was literally a victim of attempted assassination yet survived her injuries and continued standing up and fighting for women’s rights in education and freedom. Plus she received a nobel peace prize at age 17 making her the youngest person to ever receive one.

Med, Designer: Theresa Okonta (Mum) - She was in Nigeria during The Biafran War and eventually moved to London giving up a teaching career. She raised four children while working two jobs until I (the youngest) was about 14/15.

Lily-Jo, Design Intern: Emma Jones- The business expert, entrepreneur and author continuously spreads her business knowledge and trade tricks as well as mentoring young entrepreneurs, especially helping creative industries. She’s been awarded an MBE for Services to Enterprise and was appointed by the UK Prime Minister as a Business Ambassador with a focus on increasing international trade.

Happy International Women's Day from SMACK!