WPP and Brixton Finishing School launch gateway for midlife women to enter adland

Open to all women aged 45 and over.

Access: VisibleStart programme will launch in London, with plans to take it nationwide in 2022
Access: VisibleStart programme will launch in London, with plans to take it nationwide in 2022

WPP, Brixton Finishing School and the Uninvisibility Project have teamed up to launch a free training programme for midlife woman who want to enter the ad industry. 

Dubbed VisibleStart, the initiative seeks to provide a gateway into adland and to change the narrative of midlife women in advertising and media.

It is backed by WPP, the UK's biggest agency group, with support from chief executive Mark Read and Nancy Lengthorn, global chief inclusion officer for MediaCom. 

Read said: “When Jane first approached us about launching Visible Start, WPP was keen to get involved and we’re proud to support it. 

"There are many talented midlife women out there who we are missing out on so we are keen to play our part in helping them get back into the workplace or realise their potential in our industry.”

The project comes in the same month that Campaign launched its inaugural 40 Over 40 awards to recognise individuals over the age of 40 for their loyalty, dedication, leadership or mentorship during their career.

The ad industry is facing fresh questions about ageism, and the IPA Census has shown that women and older people working in advertising were among those disproportionately hit when it comes to employment during the pandemic. 

The VisibleStart training programme will consist of a series of live confidence-building events alongside an online learning platform designed to train the participants in digital media skills. In addition, WPP is aiming to employ 20 of the women who complete the course by the end of the year. 

It will launch in London, with plans to take it nationwide in 2022, and is open to women over the age of 45 from all backgrounds.

Jane Evans, co-founder of The Uninvisibility Project, said: “There is an epidemic of joblessness for women over 50, and almost half of women in this age bracket have no retirement savings at all. If we don’t act now, half a generation will retire in poverty. Both myself and Jacquie Duckworth, who I set up The Uninvisibility Project with, are determined to stem the tide.

“The VisibleStart programme offers women who are already graduates of the best school – the school of life – the chance to retrain in high-demand areas and fill skills gaps that many agencies are facing.”

Ally Owen, founder of Brixton Finishing School, added: “Our ethos is employment equity for all talent, so we jumped at the chance to collaborate and deliver VisibleStart with The Uninvisbility Project and WPP. We will bring our award-winning expertise at transforming the confidence, competence, and employability of talent marginalised by age prejudice. 

“I founded Brixton Finishing School as a midlife woman. I feel I'm only beginning to build to the peak of my potential and I am determined that other midlife woman reach their potential too."

Read previously came under fire at WPPs half-year results last year when he was was accused of ageism after claiming the average age of the company’s staff was under 30 and “they don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily”.

He subsequently apologised. The company clarified the average age was above 30 and added that “hark back to” was misinterpreted as Read simply meant to convey that WPP employees were looking towards the future and not living in the past.

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