New Manchester ‘Returners’ Programme To Boost Diversity In Creative Industries


Creative Equals launches Two-week programme in International Women’s Week with 30 founding brand and agency partners

Creative Equals, the organisation championing diversity in the creative industries, is urging women based in the Manchester area to join its ‘Returners’ programme for 2019. Creative Equals will run the two-week programme from March 4-14 2019, (International Women’s Week), for returners in Manchester with the aim of placing of them into roles. The Manchester programme will be taking place at BBC Salford, McCann and UK Fast

Backed by a £65,000 grant from the Government Equalities Office, The programme, based in London and Manchester is one of just five initiatives awarded by a new government start up fund aimed at tackling gender inequality. The programme is designed for mid-senior copywriters, IX/UX, art directors, producers, strategists, data analysts, designers and concept creatives.

With 30 brand and agency founding partners already on board and more joining daily, the first week of the bootcamp will focus on upskilling, getting the cohort up to speed on all the latest creative and tech developments. The second will see the group working on real briefs set by brand partners including Lego and Facebook. Following the programme, returners will then go on a 4-6-week placement with one of Creative Equals’ founding partners and will be supported by a dedicated coach throughout.

Creative Equals was founded by Ali Hanan who has worked in the advertising and marketing sector for the last 19 years. She set the organisation up in response to the disparity of just 12% of creative directors being women, despite 85% of purchasing decisions being made by them. Programme director in Manchester is Caroline Pankhurst, founder of Be Braver.

According to Hanan:

"We are so honoured to receive this fund, which will mean we can build more bridges back to work for creative women. 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 With out-of-date portfolios, a career gap and a biased recruitment sector, the barriers to re-entry are huge."

According to Pankhurst:

“Manchester is a forward-thinking hub of creativity and tech innovation and we are looking for it as a city to lead the way in welcoming returners back to work as part of our programme. We are urging women to come forward to boost their skills and help shape the future direction of our industry. We are also urging companies to get involved to support these returners and to gain access to some of the world’s best talent, a talent pool that has been under-utilised due to some dated attitudes.”

Tim Lindsay, CEO of D&AD, a key partner for the programme, 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."

The scheme’s headline partner, Facebook’s Creative Shop, has already piloted a ‘Returners’ programme with Creative Equal, ‘BackHer’. Jenny Durgan, programme manager EMEA, commented:

"Whether they are mums or individuals who have taken time off and need support, we will be providing hands-on training, tools and expertise for how to build creative campaigns for our platforms, as well as offering a support network that exists long after the bootcamp."

Progressive companies committed to supporting the scheme so far include: BBC Salford, McCann, UK Fast, AMVBBDO, BBH, M&C Saatchi, Karmarama, AnalogFolk, Grey, Havas, DDB Remedy, St Lukes, Jellyfish, Adam&EveDDB, MRM//McCann, Wunderman, Huge, Lego, RAPP, Girl Effect, Brilliant Basics, RPM, We are Social, The Marketing Store, MullenLowe, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Uncommon, Wavemaker, Iris Worldwide, Toaster, Wieden+Kennedy, Isobel, Geometry, ForPeople, Unit 9 and The Dots, who will be involved in promoting this talent.

To find out more about the scheme, go to If you’d like to apply, the form is here.