Why we lose our female talent before they even start

The current system with 'creatives' of 'placements' fails our young female talent. While young women will leave the UK's advertising and design colleges in equal numbers, about 40% of them will never make it to their first rung of the career ladder. Yes, you read correctly, writes Ali Hanan, creative director and founder of Creative Equals.

Why we lose our female talent before they even start

Two-fifths of young female talent are lost between graduation and industry

At advertising colleges across the country, women attend equally or skew slightly more, but then the current placement process of landing a job isn’t working for our young female talent. The question is why? The IPA’s statistics show just 29.6% of creative departments are staffed by women – up from 25% last year. What this statistic doesn’t show is many of departments Creative Equals sees run at 10% and below.

Many creative departments across London have no female creatives at all

That means a young female placement talent who comes into an environment like this will not see someone who may look or sound like themselves. Just 12% of creative directors are women and as bias studies show, people mentor those who reflect "people like me". Young women won’t get mentored from day one on the creative shop floor. They’ll look up the ladder where those important role models are few and far between. Dig into BAME female representation at a senior level and you’ll find these numbers are not just fewer, but gulfs apart.

Social mobility is also a huge barrier

With the odds stacked against young women as they come into the workplace, there is also the simple fact some can’t afford to take up their placements. Some lack social mobility, and faced with crippling student debts and staggering London rents, they won’t even start on the ladder. More research needs to happen, which is why Creative Equals is working with D&AD New Blood to further unpack what happens over the coming months.

What we can do to change this straight away is start funding young female talent

Last year, the managing director of Major Players, Helen Stokes, died tragically. In her memory, £7,000 was raised, £5,000 of which went to an internship bursary with D&AD New Blood and Creative Equals. There were 16 applicants for the fund, but only one to give, awarded to Rebecca Rhoysn Petts-Davies. Although she had won a Yellow Pencil and received a first-class degree, her personal circumstances meant she had no means to take up a placement.

Thanks to the fund, she now has a flying career at Wunderman, where she has won second place at the recent Cannes Young Lions UK competition and D&AD New Blood Award. She said: "I really couldn’t have done any of this without this bursary."

We already have female teams telling us they won’t come into London without financial help

To raise funds, Creative Equals has launched a bursary fund on Chuffed.Org in partnership with D&AD, teaming up with the CANNT Festival, Facebook and Major Players. The campaign – designed and shot by Petts-Davies and her copy partner Maya Halilvoc – is an ode to their talents.

Creative Equals have already put a portion of the starter funds in. We’re a tiny non-profit start up. So now your turn, adland.

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