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‘Beyond 10%’: Mikhaila Warburton on Uplifting Women to Creative Leadership



By Mikhaila Warburton.


I was made redundant right before Christmas in 2020. I was a female leader, a top performer and a return-to-work, first-time Mum.


My father had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I’m sure we all don’t need reminding, but 2020 was already a pretty fucked up year.


After being made redundant I’ll admit it. I was pretty broken. I don’t know if it was my family grief, the transition into motherhood, what was happening in the world at the time, or just the sheer shock of being let go by an employer that I gave my blood, sweat, time and tears to.


It was around this time that it all suddenly clicked for me. The system in supporting return to work parents was broken. No, not just broken. Shattered. 77% of Australian women are mothers – surely you’d think we as a collective had some stronger systems in place to support, help and encourage return-to-work parents but for the most part, sadly not. 


A fire was now in me. 

My mission was clear. 

To empower return to work parents and get more females back into work after having children. 

My story became my reason.

Having two daughters became my reason.

Hearing others stories became my reason. 


I took my decade of recruitment skills and career coaching abilities and turned them into my own business, Work It Mumma. Over the past 3 years, I’ve helped hundreds of women across Australia with career coaching, resume writing, LinkedIn makeovers, managing challenging salary negotiations, interview preparation and mindset work. 


I learnt a lot about myself running my own business. The number one thing, was that I am an intrepreneur, not an entrepreneur (a term I’d heard referenced on a podcast). 


I like being a part of a collective, something bigger. 

I gain energy from being around other people, other creatives. This is what brought me back to working for a company and into my current role in recruitment at Creative Natives


Since being immersed into this creative industry, that is friggin’ beautiful and talented and inspiring, I went on to find my network, my community. Being a coach for females, naturally I was drawn to want to connect with females in leadership, Creative Directors, Executive Creative Directors, Senior Art Directors. But where the hell were they? I quickly came to realise that there was a distinct lack of female Creative Directors. After a few conversations and amazing connections I now understood that: 


  • Female Creative Directors make up less than 10% in Australia. 

  • Of those most likely to leave the creative and advertising industry, 70% are women between the ages of 25 and 35. 

  • In recent years post Covid, there has been an influx of return to work parent freelancers because they can’t secure the flexible work hours they seek in a “traditional” perm role. 


These findings truly rocked me and shocked me. 


And you know what, it ignited that fire in me again. 


I said to myself “F*CK, this industry needs to change!”

So what was I to do? I'm not a creative, but I am a creative thinker. I wanted to share my story and invite others to share theirs. I didn’t go into this with an end goal, but really just a ‘why’. My ‘why’ was to help elevate others’ voices, stories and create some sort of collective. 


So I wrote a piece and shared it on my LinkedIn. And what happened next, I truly didn’t expect. I had close to 40,000 people view my post, hundreds of likes and re-shares and comments. I was totally blown away! This right here was the evidence I needed. It told me that I wasn’t the only one seeing these trends and wanting to see some change. 


So, I did another brave thing and I started a Slack Channel called “Less than 10% - FUCK That!”


I’ve had close to 200 members request to sign up to the channel in a number of days, some of the most creative and senior females in adland, creative and design across Australia. We are talking about Canva, KOTO, Mamamia, HotWire, Ogilvy, TBWA, T2 and more…


This slack channel is now a beautiful community. A place where women in the creative industry can come together. Learn from one another. Share stories and seek advice.


In 2024, I have big dreams.  Not only to bring together a fucking amazing group of powerhouse women but create panel events so other females in the industry can be inspired, workshop how they can smash their careers and crush any biased opinions that are shadowing the industry. 


Female creatives are here to stay! We want more seats at the creative table and my role as a coach for Mums, as a recruiter in the creative industry, is to help amplify these voices and raise the number of female Creative Directors in Australia.

I’m not aiming for just slightly above 10%, I want women to have the majority of senior leadership roles in the creative industry. LFG! 


If you are a hiring manager I encourage you please, take a look at your hiring policies to encourage diversity and a support plan for return to work parents in the creative and design industries. Can we make more roles part time or flexible? Can we finally nail the job-share arrangement? Can we flex our abilities to remove the unconscious bias that hours equals quality work? 


If you are a creative in the Australian industry and you want to be a part of this community of epic women – come join us, just shoot me your email to 10percent@creativenatives.com.au and I will add you to the slack channel. If you want help, guidance and support in your career send your folio and resume across to me personally, I’d love to connect with you.



ABOUT MIKHAILA Mikhaila Warburton is a mother, a coach for women and a recruitment specialist for the creative and design industry at Creative Natives. Mikhaila believes that by empowering women and creating communities allows our voices to be heard louder. She is an advocate for return to work parents and passionately on a mission for more female Creative Directors to be employed in the Australian advertising industry.

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