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Day in the Life of… Ali Hanan


In a new series from the Creative Circle, Ali Hanan reveals what her role as Founder of Creative Equals entails

Day in the Life of… Ali Hanan
Day in the Life of… is a new series from the Creative Circle, celebrating and championing the diversity of talent across Britain’s creative community. Encompassing creatives from all areas of the advertising and creative spectrum, each edition will focus on an individual and their role within our exciting community.   

First up is Ali Hanan, who reveals what her role as Founder of Creative Equals entails, how she made her way into the industry, and what the best (and worst!) parts of her job are… 
My role...

I’m the founder of Creative Equals, which aims to address the gender diversity within creative departments. Right now, the IPA’s figures show 25% of creative departments are staffed by female creatives. This means just 12-14% of creative directors in London are women, despite the fact almost 85% of all purchasing decisions are made by female consumers. When it comes to counting chief creative officers, you’re counting them on your fingers. Creative Equals’ aims to create 50/50 gender diverse departments (ethnicity, age, LGBT, disability), all the way from the bottom to critical leadership roles at the top. I also work two days a week as a creative director at Blippar, one of the world’s leading visual search and augmented reality companies. I spend my other days (normally five!) turning Creative Equals into a force for change.

How I got here...

My father always wanted to be a film director, which was a career that didn’t exist in Dunedin, a damp, coastal university town New Zealand, where I grew up. So, as a frustrated small-town family lawyer, he lived his creativity vicariously though us. He showed me the power of words and stories, so I went on to do English Literature degree and a diploma in journalism. I left afterwards to explore the planet, landing in London in the mid-90s print media boom. By the end of the 90s, the internet had exploded, and in early 2000 I joined OgilvyInteractive, the Group’s first ‘digital’ offering. Over the years, I’ve worked in departments of all shapes and sizes. I noticed how little gender diversity has changed, confirmed by a data crunch of the Cannes Lions’ archives this year (female creative leaders have flat-lined at 9.9%). Once I started doing my own research, what I found shocked me – and inspired me to be ‘the change I wanted to see’. Rather than just talking, Creative Equals is about a framework for lasting change. We want to action this, for good. 
My typical day...
The truth? The first thing I do when I wake up is flip open my laptop to check my diary and reply to anything urgent. A typical day is one like Thursday a week or so back, where I spent the morning with maternity expert, Lisa Barnwell, looking at the implications of the recent Equalities and Human Rights Commission for businesses. We discussed the best ways to shape better maternity practices for workplaces: from Creative Equals’ research, 60% of young female creatives feel they can’t stay in the industry with a young family, so we lose many women at this key life juncture. For lunch, I had an inspiring meeting with change-makers Dan Shute and Stu Outhwaite from Creature of London, who are the latest agency to sign up to Creative Equals and commit to a 50/50 department. In the afternoon, I met with Jonathan Lindon, CEO of Digital Futures to discuss The Drum’s ‘Do It Day’, where we’re putting 100 diverse GenZ school leavers into businesses. And, in the evening, I spoke about our ‘Returnships’ programme with the School of Communication Arts’ in Brixton to the school’s sponsors. ‘Returnships’ put bridges back to workplaces for parents (mainly Mums) who have left. With the SCA, these ‘Returners’ will be able to retrain for free. My day ends where it started, in bed with the laptop (we are inextricably linked). 

Hardest part of my job...

What’s tough is convincing adland supporting Creative Equals isn’t just a ‘nice to have’: it’s business critical for the industry’s future. Brands like Verzion, Hewlett Packard and General Mills are demanding 50/50 teams with 20% people of colour, but the fact is today, talent isn’t there. You can’t change what has been the status quo for decades overnight. And, female capital is estimated to double to $28 trillion over the next five years. So having women in our businesses gives insights and perspectives to will shape deeper, richer creative work – and ultimately drive profitability. The more forward-thinking agencies – like DigitasLBi, Wunderman, Mr President, AnalogFolk, R/GA, CP+B and SapientNtiro have signed up on the spot. However, many ‘talk’, but won’t invest in the walk. Without an initiative like ours – working directly in agencies with senior management and teams – the truth is nothing will change. 
What I enjoy the most about my work...

Creative Equals has already made a huge impact on gender equality in the industry and changed lives. I had an email through from Rebecca Rhosyn Petts-Davies, recipient of the Helen Stokes Scholarship (a partnership with D&AD and Major Players), who said the fund had been a ‘lifesaver’. The scholarship meant she could afford her rent and change to intern (she now has a job at Wunderman). I also have appreciated how many of the industry’s top organisations and trailblazers have partnered with us – Jeremy Green (CCO, Creative Circle), Tom Knox (president of the IPA, CEO MullenLowe), Bridget Beale (MD, BIMA), Daniele Fiandaca (co-founder Creative Social, Token Man), Marc Lewis (Dean of the SCA), Nancy Rowe (Viva Women) and Laura Jordan-Bambach (SheSays co-founder, creative partner at Mr President) and so many, many more to make incredible things happen: classes, competitions, scholarships, 50/50 juries, events and more. Together, we have the power to solve the industry’s biggest diversity issue, at speed and scale. 
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Creative Circle, Tue, 08 Nov 2016 14:09:21 GMT