Creative Equals is urging the industry to embrace the opportunity to employ "returners" as it announced that 120 women so far have registered for its returnship programmes in London and Manchester.
Thirty agency and brand partners are already part of the government-backed scheme to support women returning to work in the creative industries after an extended career break.
Ali Hanan, founder and chief executive of Creative Equals, said: "I am delighted with the number of women who have signed up. Yes, their CVs have gaps, but for us gaps are gifts, where the real life happens. Babies are born. Cancer blindsides us. Elderly parents have dementia. Experiences like this make human understanding and creativity deeper, richer and more powerful."
Applications have come from TV producers, executive producers, designers, art directors, concept creatives and creative directors. The scheme is not just for rerunning mothers; a number of applicants have taken career breaks in order to care for relatives or recover from illness and even PTSD.
Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Grey London, one of the founding partners of the scheme, said: "The number of amazing and talented women who fall out of our industry is appalling. Helping them come back isn’t just the decent thing to do, it’s an essential part of breaking down the bullshit barriers that are holding our industry back."
Alan Young, chief creative officer at St Luke’s, which has also partnered the initiative, urged people who have spent years out of agency life to overcome their hesitations about coming back. He said: "They can fear 'things have moved on' and their skills are no longer relevant. In my experience, this is merely a simple lack of confidence that can be remedied by a few weeks back in the saddle. Returners quickly find the goals and the challenges faced by agencies remain exactly the same."
Many agency partners that have signed up to the scheme are hoping it can help reverse the trend of women leaving the industry once they become mothers. Hugh Robertson, founder and chief executive of RPM, said: "With over 60% of young creative females feeling they can’t stay in our industry with a young family, the imbalance of men and women in senior creative roles is set to continue. That is, unless we find ways to make it easier for parents to return from extended leave."
According to Hanan, the programme focuses on key industry developments, from blockchain to artificial intelligence, with the chance for returners to showcase their work.
The deadline for the London programme is Friday (11 January), while applications for the Manchester scheme are being accepted until Friday 25 January.