Diversity & Inclusion
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Sarah Gross

ASPL #WeLead Campaign  |  Vol.

53
Sarah Gross
Sarah is the Creative Director and co-founder of Storyfolk. Storyfolk is a purpose-driven branding and design agency partnering with like-minded brands that want to make an impact. Sarah likes the variety of solving different creative problems each day. When she is not coming up with creative ideas at Storyfolk, you can usually find Sarah planning her next getaway, at the beach or telling her dog he is the most handsome pug in all the land.
“We need diversity to drive innovation – not a bunch of Daves*.” — Sarah Gross

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Sarah, and I am the Creative Director and co-founder of Storyfolk. Storyfolk is a purpose-driven branding and design agency partnering with like-minded brands that want to make an impact. We work with the full spectrum of clients from large multinational brands to Government to small independent businesses. I like the variety of solving different creative problems each day. When I’m not coming up with creative ideas at Storyfolk, you can usually find me planning my next getaway, at the beach or telling my dog he is the most handsome pug in all the land.

2. Who are the women who have inspired you the most in your life?

There are so many amazing women to draw inspiration from. I love a good list, so I’m going to break it down into three categories: Personal, Professional and what an amazing human. On a personal level – My mum. My mum is one impressive human, and I am incredibly proud, surprised by and in awe of her. My mum has always stood up for what she believes in and is a true champion of being the voice for people who need it – Climate change, racism, domestic violence, LGBTQI+ (to name a few). She has always led with her values, and I think that upbringing had a really powerful impact on me. I was able to see first-hand the power people, even one person, can have to drive positive change, which has fuelled me to make my small impact which is now a big part of what we do at Storyfolk. By the time I was 13: I had camped out at the Jabiluka Blockade protest in Kakadu National Park, learned how to fire twirl, road-tripped around Australia in a campervan, been published in a book for a political poem and spent time going to school in a small Aboriginal community. My mum was always open to sharing things with me, giving me new experiences and supporting me to flourish. My mum has inspired me countless times, and she still inspires me every day. A little shout-out, if you are reading this, mum (which you probably will because you’re also my #1 supporter). Thank you for everything, and I love you. At a professional level – Gemma O’Brien. Earlier in my career, I was able to work with Gemma, and she is not only an out-of-this-world typographer, creative and artist. She is also a really wonderful, exuberant and generous person. On a “what an amazing human” level, Jacinda Ardern shows that women can run a country successfully with empathy, compassion and strength, which is long-overdue politics, and pretty powerful to watch.

3. Why do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in business, particularly in leadership roles?

Leadership is all about leading ideas, people and businesses. We need diversity to drive innovation – not a bunch of Daves*. A diverse leadership team leads to diverse ideas, unique problem-solving and people-focused solutions. Women bring a different way of thinking to business which can help drive profit, ideas and growth. One quality that makes a good leader, in my opinion at least, is authenticity. When you are authentic, you can use both your rational mind and emotions. You can be authoritative while being empathetic. You can show assertiveness while also being vulnerable. I think Jacinda Ardern and Barack Obama are excellent examples of this.

*According to the New York Times, 4.2% of women held CEO roles in America’s 500 largest companies. Out of those same 500 companies, 4.5% of the CEO’s were named David or Dave.

4. How would you describe your current thinking about diversity and inclusion?

As someone who has met, befriended and worked with various people from all walks of life and backgrounds, I know first-hand the power diversity can have on thinking, innovation and ideas. I challenge you to strike up a conversation with someone you might not usually, and I’m sure you’ll both walk away having gained something. I think we can all learn something from everyone, and it’s important we use empathy in everyday life and business to continue to learn. For this reason, I really love ABC’s “You can’t ask that” and the humanlibrary.org

5. Would you like to tell us a bit more about your thoughts/ comments?

Cass Mackenzie and I opened Storyfolk because of the lack of representation of women in leadership roles. In the business world, women leaders are still a minority. However, looking at the design industry in isolation is quite scary with the lack of diversity. Women hold only 5-11% of creative director positions, with only 0.1% of creative agencies female-owned. Side note: Cass Mackenzie is also an incredible woman, inspiring leader, and I’m very proud to call her my friend/business partner.

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