Inspirational Women: Nadean McNaught

Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 and have chosen to highlight a wonderful selection of truly inspirational women who are vital members of the commercial interiors sector, each playing a different role. We spoke with Nadean McNaught about being an inspiration to others, the women she celebrates, the advice she gives as a mentor and the potential impact of greater gender equality on her work.

Please could you introduce yourself and your role?

I’m Nadean McNaught and I have the pleasure of leading the NaughtOne team. I joined the business 5 years ago and then took the helm in 2020.

After receiving my degree in Accountancy and Business from Newcastle University, I started my career at Nike. The ‘Just Do It’ culture really brought out the best in me and was influential in shaping my future career.

I spent 20 years working as a chartered accountant across many industry sectors: financial services, engineering, retail and transport. Then, through my passion for people, processes and IT, I got into operations. I joined NaughtOne as Financial Director looking after IT, HR and, after a year leading the operations team, made a natural progression into the Managing Director role when it became available.

I enjoy the depth and variety of my role; no two days are the same.  I particularly enjoy the process of designing and developing new products for our customers’ needs and setting strategies to develop and grow in new markets. I get energy from growing a successful business and developing people.

What does it feel like to be inspired by, and inspire, people around you?

Inspirational people come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common: they have the ability to motivate others to achieve great things and they do it by modelling the way themselves.

For me personally, the key to being an inspiring person is to be authentic, be yourself and be open and able to accept constructive feedback, to constantly grow.

Through my career, I’ve found it particularly rewarding when I’ve helped people who have not necessarily been fully aware of their strengths and capabilities. I think there’s a lot of people who don’t know from the outset what it is that gives them energy, and what it is that makes them want to get up on a morning. If you can help people understand that, it’s pretty impactful.

I really want to model the way for my son, too. He sees his mum going out to work and has done since he was young. With every job that I’ve done, I bring 100% of myself and constantly try to stretch myself to develop and learn about the business, the industry and the role – which he sees and hears over the dinner table.  He also sees my husband and I balance responsibilities around the home to support the family and that demonstrates a sense of balance and partnership around gender.

Which inspirational women do you celebrate?

Queen Elizabeth II was an inspirational woman. She was an amazing figurehead, leader and mother. It feels like she didn’t compromise at any of her roles in life. Thrust into a role at a young age, having just lost her father, she saw through her commitment to the end. I admire her courage, strength and determination. She saw a huge amount of change over the 70 years, and it was amazing to see how she constantly adapted and evolved her approach and outlook. Her genuine interest in people was humbling. She made eye contact, always smiling, warm and engaging. She was a genuine national treasure and an inspiration for many generations of women.

What are three pieces of advice you give to the women you mentor?

  1. Be yourself. Always be the authentic version of yourself and don’t try to live in a man’s world. Just be the best version of you.
  2. Never doubt that you can do anything that you put your mind to. Always ask what needs to be true in order to make something happen, rather than saying you can’t do it.
  3. Feedback is a gift. If you listen to those around you it will only help you grow as an individual. Take from feedback and use it to support and develop you as a person and in your career. Make the decision yourself as to how you want to use the feedback you’re given.

Would greater gender equality create a more sustainable future for our sector and what would that entail?

Yes. Diverse thinking in design, but diverse thinking across any company and organization can only provide benefit to the sector.

I don’t think furniture design was necessarily something that women gravitated towards, and has traditionally been a male dominated field, but women have a strong sense of importance around sustainability and Mother Earth. I think having women in design, business and the sustainability agenda is going to be incredibly impactful because of their overall approach.

For me, gender equality is choosing the right person for the job, and making sure nobody feels like something is out of reach for them. If you’re doing your best, anybody can excel regardless of gender.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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