We got the opportunity to sit down with Sophie Power, Head of Creative of DHP Family, she talks being ballsy in business and women empowerment in male-dominated industries.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career:
I’m currently Head of Creative for award-winning, live music promoter DHP Family, based in Nottingham and London. My department provides creative to promote tours and stand-alone shows for artists such as Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Massive Attack, Nick Cave, and Human League.
I also oversee the branding and design direction for eight venues around the UK including Rock City, Rescue Rooms and The Bodega, online ticketing platform alt.tickets and festivals in five cities up to 25k capacity including Splendour and Dot to Dot Festival.
What made you choose this career/industry?
It always felt really natural for me to work in the creative industries. I just followed what I enjoyed throughout my education and that was always art, design and media. Originally I wanted to work in fashion, I wanted to make incredibly over the top and surreal perfume adverts. I typed in every keyword I enjoyed to the UCAS website and picked the degree that contained the most. I ended up doing Fashion and Brand Promotion with Journalism at UCLAN. I was incredibly lucky as the course was amazing and taught me so much. I always found myself most excited about the design aspects of the course, classmates would ask me for help with the design elements of their projects and I would make flyers for friends club nights while studying. So when I graduated I decided to focus on a career in Graphic Design.
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
The most major setbacks I had were self-inflicted. I was nervous to put myself out there, worried that if I was rejected, it would confirm I had failed. Or that my work wasn’t good enough and would be laughed at. I hardly applied for any jobs. Something I really regret, especially since I’m now in a position where I receive portfolios from people on a near-daily basis and I never laugh at them!
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
Really it was about gaining confidence in myself and that happened through experience. I just had to keep learning more about design and taking on more opportunities to design different types of things. I took on everything I could. I always thought my designs were good, but I was worried about the technical aspects of my process. The only thing that got me through that was an experience and asking plenty of questions along the way.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
Women in Music. It’s an initiative formed by some of my colleagues at DHP, which aims to address the gender imbalance in the music industry. We want to create an inclusive environment that encourages discussion and provides advice for women currently working or aiming to work in music. We had our first event in 2018, open to people of all genders and at all levels of their careers. The evening featured an interview and panels discussing what challenges women currently face, what work businesses can do to improve diversity and what is being done currently to implement change. I think it is really important for women who have broken into the music industry to share their experiences and be visible to others hoping to work in music. Tickets proceeds were donated to Equation, a Nottinghamshire charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse and sexual violence. Since then we’ve put on club nights and open mic nights in association with Women in Music as well as more panels and networking events.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I always want to be good at anything I do. I’m extremely competitive. My mum worked really hard when I was younger. She worked in a pub and did dressmaking on the side to make money, she always inspired me to believe in myself and push for more.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I’m very proud to be a female boss and have other female bosses as colleagues. There are a lot of ‘old white men’ in positions of power in the music industry and I feel delighted that DHP has allowed me to help chip away at that stereotype. It’s definitely inspiring to see more women working in music and being recognised for their achievements. I’m happy I’m able to hire talented females and female supporting men to work in my team.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
I guess career-wise it’s being head of my own department that combines two amazing industries. Honestly being asked to do interviews like this.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
No, I’ve been very lucky to work for a company that has given me every opportunity it gives male employees, because I know the industry as a whole probably has further to go. There are a lot of strong and inspiring women at DHP and I’m lucky to count them as my colleagues. If I have ever come across ‘boys clubs’ where I could have missed out on networking or bonding opportunities, I’ve found it’s best to just go right around these clubs and carry on anyway. Or start your own ‘girls club’ and make it much better than theirs.
Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
I love films and cinema. My favourite so far this year is Parasite. I also love going to galleries and I just went to see the winter lights at Canary Wharf which was amazing. I used to love reading as a child, but my phone has taken over a bit these days. So I’m trying to get back into that this year.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Say yes to every opportunity even if you can’t be arsed
Be nice and work hard.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
It sounds very cliché, but my mum is a massive influence on who I am as a woman. She brought my sister and me up by herself and she always told me to never put limits on what I want to achieve for myself. She always taught us to be independent and that we shouldn’t depend on anyone else for validation. She never pushed me into any one job and was very open to me pursuing a career in the creative industries. She encouraged me, but also wouldn’t put up with any shit.
What are your key motivators?
To be successful and make good work that I can feel proud of. To push creative boundaries, keep progressing, learning and moving forward.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
I think it is very on-trend right now to seem like you are a company who is doing something to address it. That can only be a good thing as any spotlight on the situation will help. But it is important to make sure that it isn’t only surface level and schemes that can help long term are being put in place. It doesn’t help enough to hire more women as a good PR move if you are then going to pay them less than the men. We need to look beyond the headlines and at the real facts, figures and actions. We are getting there slowly the more women, LGBTQ+ and POC are put into positions of power. We need to keep talking about the subject and how we can address the imbalance. Ideas like inclusion riders, initiatives like #YesSheCan and Women In Music are vital so we can keep moving forward and work together as women and with men to make a significant change.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Be good at what you do! Learn everything you can about your industry, stay late, work hard – be so good they can’t ignore you. Don’t wait for others to provide you with opportunities. They will most likely not just fall in your lap and others are generally busy looking out for themselves. Ask for new challenges and ways to progress. But also, stand up for yourself. Be ballsy, put yourself forward for things, call people out when you are overlooked and ask why. If the reason is valid, then turn it into a learning experience and be better next time. If it isn’t – don’t be afraid to point it out or leave and aim to join somewhere where your contributions are valued.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Remember that being nice, kind and empathetic are strengths and not weaknesses. You also don’t have to fit into anyone’s idea of what a woman or a female boss should be. You are your own person, regardless of gender. Believe in yourself, question authority, back your ideas if you believe in them. Communicate with your team and don’t assume that you know it all.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
That people are different. They have different skills, different needs and different personalities and so you can’t manage everyone the same way. You have to listen to them and adapt how you direct them to fit their character. Be honest with your team and ask their advice as well as giving yours. Empower them and let them take ownership of projects to keep them invested.
What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To thine own self be true. My mum says it all the time. I interpret it to basically mean; remember who you are, where you come from and what you stand for. Also, RuPaul has it right: "If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
I would say to believe in yourself and just go for it. Don’t overthink things and build them up to be bigger than they really are. Things don’t always have to be perfect, people are not as scary as you imagine them to be and they don’t know as much as you think.