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Creative Equals talks us through its new programme for women returning to work

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Only 12% of creative directors are women. Creative Equals plans to change that. Founded in 2015 by Ali Hanan, what started as a side project is now an award-winning organisation championing diversity and inclusion in the creative industries. “I’m a creative director, who has worked in the industry since 1999. I know. A long time,” Ali tells It’s Nice that. “And, for a lot of that, I’ve been the ‘only woman in the room’. Our research shows just 12% of creative directors are women, despite the fact women start out from grad school at 60:40. So, when we started our first aim was to unpack what happens.”

Motherhood can be a key inflection point just as women are stepping up to leadership roles. “In 2016, our first piece of research showed 60% of young women felt they couldn’t stay in the industry with a young family,” Ali says. “We started from a point of wanting to understand the barriers around gender for women creatives, however, we understand people are intersectional. You have to understand the ‘system’, not just a department; you have to understand the whole person.”

In 2017, Creative Equals launched the Creative, Digital and Media Equality Standards, recognised kitemarks that give companies a D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) review, rating and action plan: “[It] covers all aspects of diversity (gender, race, LGBTQI, education, faith, age, disability, neurodiversity) and looks at company policies and practices, top to bottom, in and out.”

They’ve curated juries around the industry, “for the DMAs, Creative Circle and the Effies," set up training programmes and run workshops about how to put diversity and inclusion at the heart of creative briefs and work.

Now, Creative Equals has launched a programme of ‘Returnships’, an initiative for women returning to work: “Our aim, specifically, is to build bridges back to work for women who have been out of the industry for all sorts of reasons – illness, parenthood, caring breaks, etc. The aim is to help close the sector’s gender pay gap, help women gain the tools and skills they need for today’s marketplace – like the emerging creative playgrounds of AI, VR, AR, Blockchain, experiential, etc – and help redress the balance in creative departments. For now, many have faced huge biases coming back to work with a CV gap.”

Partnering with D&AD, The Dots, the Government Equalities Office and Facebook, the programme will coincide with International Women’s Week 2019, and has a dual focus on context and practice. Participants will be taken through new developments in technology and the creative industries, before tackling a series of project briefs set by brands involved with the initiative, which include M&C Saatchi, MullenLowe, Grey London, and Wieden+Kennedy.

Access to the programme is via an application process, open to women who’ve worked in a variety of creative careers – from art direction and copywriting to UX designers or strategy – who’ve been off work for at least a year. It’s free for participants, and Creative Equals has taken its commitment to accessibility a step further by taking care responsibilities into account, offering financial assistance via its ‘Comeback’ fund.

On the company side, Creative Equals “asks them to make sure their flexible working practices are on offer, considering job shares, compressed hours and part-time roles”; “they’ll be hands-on, mentoring our cohort and taking them on at the end for paid placements and roles. It’s the ideal way for companies to close their gender pay gap, inject fresh diverse talent, provide influential role models and create innovative award-winning work.”

Not missing a beat, Ali highlights the many long- and short-term benefits for brands and organisations: “Returners are known to drive an efficient new working culture. Win, win, all round, we say.”

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Creative Equals