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Linda Scott is professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. Her research is currently focused on the potential for market-based approaches to provide economic empowerment for women – a topic she is passionate about.
She recently led an independent, two-year case study exploring how Procter & Gamble’s Pampers brand of nappies and Unicef worked together to help protect women and babies from tetanus. Procter & Gamble donated one tetanus vaccine for every pack of nappies sold, a campaign that has so far protected more than 100m women of child-bearing age and their infants.
Having spent her childhood in Texas, Prof Scott studied American literature and history and completed a PhD in communications at the University of Texas at Austin. She also has an MBA from Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business and has written a book, called Fresh Lipstick on the history of the interaction between the emergence of the beauty industry and the increase of American feminism.
1. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Feeling like I can make a difference. I have been blessed these past few years to be doing research on market-based approaches to women’s economic empowerment at a time when there is so much emphasis on helping women in the developing nations to achieve autonomy. I have been all over the world, seen and done things I never expected and met some truly awe-inspiring people, both male and female.
2. Do you have a teaching routine?
I work on a lecture right up to the moment of delivery. My family and friends have learned to avoid me when I am about to teach. It’s like performance art for me. But once I begin, it’s all flow. I’m like a game show host or a DJ.
3. Who are your business heroes?
My business hero is Mary Wells, the founder of Wells Rich Greene, an advertising agency emblematic of the creative revolution of the 1960s. She led the teams that created some of my favourite campaigns, such as the unconventional Alka-Seltzer spots and the optimistic “I love New York” campaign. She was the first woman ever to have a public offering on the New York Stock Exchange and she amazed the world by painting the entire Braniff International Airways fleet in hot colours and then engaging Emilio Pucci to design the flight attendants’ wardrobe in shades to match. She was everything fresh, hip, young, irreverent and beautiful. I was breathless when I got the chance to meet her last summer. She was fabulous. She now lives on a boat that cruises the Mediterranean, while working with some of the strongest and most glamorous women in media to produce the wowOwow website.
4. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
I would never want to be the dean of a business school, even for one day. When I try to envision what I would do, all I can think of is “Run!”
5. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
My book: Fresh Lipstick. It took years of painstaking, original research to investigate and debunk the way that story has been told by others. I think it is a good read, has some fascinating characters and surprising stories, but is more thoroughly documented than any of the old feminist rants against fashion.
6. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
To follow your own light. Even if you fail, it feels better than trying to be someone else, to live a dream that isn’t yours. And, honestly, it is amazing to me what can be achieved with a clear vision and a firm commitment.
7. What is the worst job you have ever had?
Being a secretary. You have a lot of responsibility and very little control. It is a very stressful job. I feel lucky that I had that experience when I was young. I never forgot what it felt like and I think it makes me more considerate of all the people who support me in my work. At least I hope it does.
8. What advice would you give to women in business?
Never forget that you are female. No one else does. Women who think they can masquerade as a man are more vulnerable than women who own their identity.
9. What inspires you?
In the work I am doing now, I must confront some very sad and discouraging truths about the way people, especially women, must live in most of the world. It is often extremely depressing. I experience a great deal of self doubt and I often think I should just give up. But, every place I have gone, I have met local people who are sacrificing their own money and time and even safety to help others. Their acts of selflessness inspire me. They also make me ashamed that I would even think of giving up. As long as those people keep trying, I will, too. In fact, as long as there is suffering of this magnitude, we should all be working to stop it.
10. What are your future plans?
I am writing a book on the women’s economy. I believe my experiences have given me a unique perspective on how women engage with the world of exchange. I hope that these ideas will help policy makers and even corporations deal better with women as workers, consumers, investors, and donors. More than anything, I hope it will inspire women to take leadership, to dare to realise their own economic power.
Compiled by Charlotte Clarke