WEDNESDAY 14 NOV 2018 10:57 AM


Creative Equals, an organisation promoting diversity in creative industries, is setting an overdue industry example by launching a pathway for women returning to the workforce. The ‘Returners’ programme is aimed at women rejoining mid-senior copywriting, IX/UX, art direction, production, strategy, data analysis, design and concept creation roles.

Backed by a £65,000 grant from the Government Equalities Office and agency sponsors, the two week Returners programme will provide upskilling and industry updates and have participants work on real briefs for Lego and Facebook, followed by 4-6 week placements by a number of sponsored agencies. The goal is to have at least 25 of the 34 participants permanently placed by the end of the programme and to grow the programme yearly.

The programme aligns with public and industry guides to close the gender pay gap, like the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s ‘Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain’ and Flagship Consulting’s ‘Gender Pay Gap Reporting: A guide to communicating your results.’ Both guides stress the importance of plans to make workplaces more equitable, including providing skills development and getting those on leave or returning up to speed on company and industry wide issues. As Creative Equals founder Ali Hanan says, “Our programme is a direct response to the difficulties returning carers face when attempting to re-enter the world of work. Just when creatives are stepping up to leadership roles, parenthood or caring duties come along. With out-of-date portfolios, a career gap and a biased recruitment sector, the barriers to reentry are huge.”

Returners offers a PR and business opportunity for its partners. Of the over 30 brand and agency partners that have joined, many revealed shocking gender pay gaps in 2018, including DDB whose female colleagues were paid an average of 38.1% less than their male colleagues (62p per £1) and Karmarama who revealed a gap of 33% in pay. Emphasising the value of the program, Returner partner, D&AD’s CEO Tim Lindsay says, “Our business depends on talent; but as an industry we're not very good at finding it or keeping it. Everyone knows now that more diverse, better gender-balanced companies outperform their competitors. And everyone knows that our clients want us to do something about it – as they themselves are doing. Yet, criminally, we make it almost impossible for women who've taken a career break to return to work. Never mind the issues of fitness and social justice – it's plain bad for business.”

Involvement with programmes that offer more opportunities for women is an important step towards communicating structural changes in an industry where only 12% of creative directors are women. The ‘Returners’ program will take place in London and Manchester and coincide with International Women’s Week between March 4-19, 2019.

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