If there’s one person to have in your corner in a crisis, or to celebrate your success, it’s Carswell Gould’s Founder Gill Gould. This International Women’s Day, Gill looks back at her own career, what has made her proud and on the achievements we are celebrating today.
For nearly 50 years – 30 at the helm of Carswell Gould – Gill has been getting things done, making things happen, not giving up.
Her determination, expertise and resilience are legendary. After all, this is the woman behind the commercial success of The Wombles – created by her aunt Elizabeth Beresford in the 1960s; who single-handedly ran the office of TV chef, broadcaster and writer Clement Freud and who put together special editions for The Telegraph Magazine’s iconic events.
This was all before the age of 25.
Gill’s career and love of writing led her to a ‘wonderful’ job with an author’s agency. She said: “Here I had an amazingly successful female boss who was an incredible role model for me. She gave me the confidence to believe in my own ability and, thanks to her, I developed the belief that I could succeed in business and had the resilience to cope with the knocks.”
“It is hard to explain nowadays that having children was career-changing for a woman. This was the time before women’s employment laws, nurseries and career support. So, yes, I cheer International Women’s Day for its celebration of choices given to women. My decision at that time had to be to leave work and go freelance as a reader for publishing companies.”
Further life changes brought Gill out of London to the New Forest in the early 1980s with her husband and two very small sons. She seized a new opportunity to set up a design department for an ambitious building company. “The offer came not a minute too soon and set me on the road to learn a whole new world and career in advertising and marketing. And how I loved it.”
Moving on to an advertising agency specialising in the marine leisure industry cemented her love for marketing communications and gave her experience in running an agency. However, she says: “Looking back I believe these two opportunities came to me because of the very fact I was cheaper to employ as a woman. Equality in pay certainly didn’t factor then. But wasn’t I lucky!”
“Fighting my corner” resulted in the necessity to leave the agency. In 1993, Gill set up Carswell Gould. She built the business from nothing and was later joined by her son Ed who set up the studio and web teams and, in time became the agency’s Creative Director. Together they grew their business, taking on more challenging and expansive projects for a wide gamut of brands.
A second game-changer came when Gareth Miller re-joined the team as Managing Director, delivering strong strategic planning and thinking to our clients. Carswell Gould went from strength to strength and celebrates 30 years of award-winning success this year. Gill says it is a milestone she regards with a mixture of pride and relief at surviving the vagaries of time.
Looking back, I can’t really believe I was brave enough to launch a new company from get-go. The difficulties at the time were immense, but opportunities are always there to be grabbed and run with.
My real pride comes when I look back over 30 years at the range of our wonderful clients and the part we played in their world, from new start-ups to established strong brands. I relished every minute.
Gill has also been an inspiration to her integrated marketing team of PR, design and IT specialists over the years. She says: “It’s wonderful to nurture the next generation who will set the industry alight. There’s nothing better than working with very bright young people and I’m proud of the brilliant campaigns we create at Carswell Gould and the positive impact it has for our clients.”
Gill has enjoyed many highlights over the past three decades at Carswell Gould, but counts the success of Venturefest South, which has sky-rocketed in the past seven years ago, as a particular stand-out.
Likewise, having the Women’s Prize for Fiction as a client for the past 10 years is a huge pleasure – Gill says she reads everything on their nominated book lists and celebrates the writing of women authors. The Agency partners the Prize on digital and web and has seen it develop and grow over the years. Another recent project close to Gill’s heart is Innovate UK KTN Women in Innovation Awards, this project celebrates the ground-breaking work of 39 of the most inspiring women in the UK.
It’s been fascinating to witness the increase in focus on fairness for women over the past 50 years. Things have come a long way and there is no doubt that giving greater power to women is laudable. However, I do worry that the value of hard work against the grain is sometimes lost. It certainly helped make me what I am. Ultimately, we want a fair world where anyone can work hard and succeed equally – every day of the week.
Gill welcomes International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate women’s tenacity, braveness and accomplishments.
She has an ongoing interest in education, learning and skills and the life-changing opportunities and influence they have on the success of every individual and every business. “Businesses cannot grow and succeed without people with the best possible education and skills-based learning.”
Gill lectured in marketing communications when she started Carswell Gould and is still in contact with students. She has continued to sit on business and education Boards to support the local community.
Gill was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to parents who ran a tea plantation in a remote area. She says “I learned to depend on myself from an early age and it taught me to make my own decisions”. The family moved to England, but education for girls was not regarded as important as marriage and she received a ‘limited education’ at her boarding school, being told at the age of 12 there was ‘no further point’ in her learning maths or science.
“There was no career advice for women in the 1960s – we were expected to become either a nurse or a secretary, but I followed my own path.” Undaunted, Gill was spurred on to concentrate on English and history by two stand-out women teachers and went to London University to study speech therapy, but changed course to learn journalism in order to work for the BBC.
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