How Creative Comeback is re-launching careers for female creatives

A new programme from Creative Equals aims to help women back into the ad industry after a career break. Founder Ali Hanan talks to Lisa Hassell about how it works

Ali Hanan started Creative Equals in 2015 with a mission to create 50/50 gender diverse creative departments at UK agencies. Her lightbulb moment arrived when a young team came to see her back in 2014. “They had been assisting different agencies and they said to me that I was the first female creative director that they had met so far that day. After googling the numbers of female creative directors globally – it was about 3% in 2008 – I realised something needed to change.”

By 2016 the proportion of female creative directors had gone up to around 14%, but this was clearly not enough. “On a personal level, I’ve experienced a lot of situations where I’m the only woman in the room,” says Hanan. “I also noticed over the years a lot of women drop out of the industry, especially after starting a family, because the industry in the past has been notorious for its lack of understanding and focus on presenteeism.”

The industry still lacks diversity in all areas, from gender and ethnicity, to neurodiversity, class, age and people with disabilities. It’s safe to say that the majority of work is still coming from a very biased point of view, says Hanan. “We exist to increase diversity and inclusion in the creative sector by disrupting the status quo at all levels. We’re working to combat all kinds of discrimination we see in the industry, from ageism to gender discrimination and a lack of representation of people from multicultural backgrounds. We believe that in order for creativity to thrive, people from all backgrounds need to have a seat at the table.”

Creative Equals now has the backing of many of the largest companies in the sector, including VCCP, Havas London, Ogilvy, The Engine Group, AMVBBDO and many more. Their ethos is simple: diverse teams equals diverse work equals diverse audiences. Inclusive cultures drive creativity, profitability, innovation and happiness. Pioneering a data-driven, people-powered model for diversity, now a kitemark, the Creative, Digital and Media Equality Standard has become the benchmark for the industry, giving companies a review, rating and a road map for lasting change.


Milton Keynes