Sarah-Jane's story is the latest in our exclusive Changemakeher Career Stories, where we interview incredible women creating powerful change in their respective fields about their stories and share their advice on how YOU can do the same. After doing some research, one of the biggest factors we’ve discovered as to why exactly girls tend to shy away from fields such as STEM, entrepreneurship and leadership roles is quite simply that there is often not enough representation. After all, it’s a lot harder to become something you can’t see. So, here at Changemakeher, one of the ways we’re working to change that by interviewing amazing women out there, and showing that you’re just as capable of doing things like them!
So, without further ado, let us introduce to you: Sarah-Jane Stringer!
Tell us about your story and what you do day-to-day!
My name is Sarah-Jane, and I run two businesses. One is my creative agency called Sarah-Jane Creative, and the other is a social media agency called The Social Project (which I run with my business partner Rachel Wilson). Every day for me is so different, from creating brands and websites for Sarah-Jane Creative to managing social media accounts for The Social Project. I love the fact that I can work from anywhere I want sometimes that means working from my home office and hanging out with my puppy Cookie, and sometimes that means working from Mt Hutt, so I can get a ski day in while working on my lunch break, and in November it will mean working from the other side of the world for a couple of months. The great thing about what I do is that I can do it anywhere and anytime, and for a creative, I think that is what has helped my business become successful.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started off studying a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design, it was always my dream to work for a big design agency, you know like the ones on TV, where you get to wear heels and pretty dresses.... But after graduating I got a job in an agency and figured out that life wasn't for me,(If you don't have big dreams & goals you will end up working really hard for someone who does). After this experience, I wanted to quit design forever, but I am so glad I didn't. I started off doing freelance design work while I figured out my next step I was really enjoying this process, working with the clients from start to finish, and working in my own time! I felt my love and passion for design come back, and I knew I wanted to work for myself full-time. But as a new home owner and an adventure and travel seeker, I needed to get a couple of part-time jobs at the start to help me get to where I wanted to be. I was working 3 part-time jobs on the side of working in my business Sarah-Jane Creative, this was great but was getting exhausting! I then met my now business partner of The Social Project Agency Rachel Wilson. We both had the same vision, to create a social media agency, that not only plans out your social media calendar but also creates your content, graphically designs your posts, does photography, attends your events and more! We wanted to be an easy social media solution. Once we got this up and running we were amazed at how successful it was so quick. I managed to be able to quit my part-time jobs and work within my businesses. I have never been happier, I love the freedom it gives me, as well as the satisfaction of building my own brands!
What advice would you give to young girls looking to get into your field of work?
Just keep at it, keep going! This industry can be cut throat and can sometimes make you feel really bad, especially if you have poured your heart and soul into some work and the client rips it apart, it is a hard lesson to learn, but you can't take it personally, everyone has different design styles and taste. If you end up working for yourself you have to also remember to work smarter, not harder. Take breaks when you need to, this will reset your mind and help you stay focused. As creatives, we often need to be inspired by the outside world, we can't come up with our best ideas while stuck in an office, so go for a surf, or a walk, work from a cafe or even the beach, do anything that will keep your mind active.
Why do you think women are under-represented in your field and the broader workplace?
I think graphic design is an industry where these days people don't think there is much of an imbalance when it comes to gender, but they would be wrong. As a student in my final year, I felt this and decided to dedicate my final project to Women in Graphic Design. What I found was that there were some incredible female graphic designers throughout our history, but they just didn't really get noted down in our history books, these books were mainly built on the foreground of male graphic designers.
This transfers from history into our present day. When I studied graphic design there were noticeably more female students than male students, but now that we graduated awhile ago, the majority of the males (if not all) are working in the industry, whether the majority of the females that graduated are not. It is not just noticeable for my year group, or even country, this is happening all over the world. A survey of the UK design industry published by the Design Council in 2010 revealed that only 40% of designers were women, in contrast to the 70% of female design students. This seems like a bit of a weird statistic, what is happening to the rest of these women, are they struggling to find jobs? Maybe this could relate to why if we look at top design agency, awards and design panels, the majority of the represented are males. Maybe as females if we do not see a fair and even demographic we feel as though we may not be able to reach the top, we may as they say 'hit a glass ceiling'. Maybe the way a design agency works is just not that applicable to how the female mind works. This idea of the longer hours you work, the more you drain yourself and stress yourself out, the more successful you will be. Maybe women are not succeeding in this because we don't work well this way, I know I felt this on a this on a personal level.
On a positive note to this, I have noticed a lot of female designers have decided to go out on their own and succeed in their own way. By starting online design businesses. This works for us because we can work smarter, we can take our time to have breaks and refresh our minds, to then work to the best of our ability. It is looking to me like the whole graphic design work space is changing, and soon it will be more balanced, with everyone being able to work to the best of their ability!
Have you experienced any push-back for being a woman in your field? If so, how do you deal with that?
I felt this at the start of my career, being a young female, I felt as though some people maybe struggled to take me seriously. I don't know if this was due to my own personal insecurities though.
Who are your biggest inspirational GirlBosses?
Abigail and Emily over at Think Creative Collective! Right from the start, they have inspired me so much! I listen to their podcasts every day and are obsessed with their online courses. I also love Sophia Amoruso, I read Girl Boss right at the start of my business, and I found it so inspirational, she is such a badass! Arianna Huffington, I love and live by her book THRIVE, this book has taught me so much and I wouldn't be where I am today without it!
Where you can find Sarah-Jane:
Sarah-Jane Creative: http://sarahjane-creative.com/
The Social Project: https://thesocialprojectagency.com/