Events: CreativeComeback, India’s first female focussed ‘returners’ programme for the advertising sector, launches in Mumbai

MUMBAI, India—This International Women’s Day, #CreativeComeback, a first for India’s advertising industry will #BreakTheBias in its creative departments. Just as many women step up into critical creative director roles, they take a career break for various reasons, including childcare and caring for family relatives.

Once they leave, the bias in re-entering the workplace and lack of flexibility, means it’s impossible for them to return. Advertising creatives are only considered as good as ‘their last piece of work’. With a CV gap of more than a year and a fast-changing consumer landscape of evolving social media trends, against their male candidates who never have a ‘gap’, returning female creatives are quickly considered ‘out-dated’, offered lower positions or even accept demoralising pay cuts.


With award-winning inclusion organisation, Creative Equals, global association for creative design and advertising D&AD as training partners and Diageo, a brand committed to gender equality, this story is about to change.

Chief Executive of Creative Equals, Ali Hanan says, “Losing women at this critical juncture in their careers means there are few women creative directors in India. Creative directors curate the media billions of Indian women see. As a study by the Unicef and the Geena Davis institute shows, advertising doesn’t portray the modern Indian woman who is tech savvy and discerning, instead perpetuating potentially harmful stereotypes. Without gender equality at creative leadership, brands could be missing out on millions of rupees of potential revenue, as more than 85% of purchasing decisions are made by Indian women across all categories, from insurance to cars to homes.”

Paul Drake, Foundation Director of D&AD says, “We have seen the success of this programme in London and New York, where 80% of participants go on to find employment. We will spend two weeks 7 – 17 March upskilling returners on ideation, strategy, presentation skills, innovations and trends from our awards programme so they are equipped with the right knowledge for the jobs market.”

Deepika Warrier, CMO Diageo India, Diageo says, “At Diageo, inclusion and diversity is central to our purpose of celebrating life, every day, everywhere and we’re committed to creating a working culture in which our people feel like they belong and can bring their authentic selves to work. Today for example, 22% of Diageo India’s overall workforce (as against 7.5% in 2015), 4 of 8 executives in the Excom are women. In our brand & creative side, over 45% of our content work has been led, directed or portrayed by women creators, and over 10% of our work by creators on the gender identity spectrum. We will continue this focus on gender equality and equity throughout the globe, specifically at the creative table, as we know gender equality makes for better, more representative advertising. We know women ‘are 11 times more likely to not work after COVID job loss,’ (The Times Of India, 2021) & also step out during certain life stages and then find it difficult to hit their stride when they return. This is particularly true of the creative industry sector. Creative Comeback helps the industry #BreakTheBias by changing the view on CV gaps to being ‘gifts’. We know when women take a career break, their life experiences bring them back with a deeper perspective.”

Tejali Shete, a Mumba-born creative, experienced the programme in London. She credits it with her success today. “What I gained the most was a renewed confidence in myself as the rooms echoed with powerful voices telling us that there’s nothing that we couldn’t achieve.We worked on a brief set by the programme sponsor, Diageo. My team went on to win the best presentation, with help from our creative mentor from one of the partner agencies, leading us to getting a ‘returnship’ work placement at my dream ad agency in London. I went on to set up my own agency, but wanted big agency experience. I’m now an Associate Creative Director at Grey London/AKQA Group and a judge for Snapchat’s Creative Council. I can’t wait to see India’s creative sector embrace this programme and bring more women back.”

So far, agencies FCB and Virtue Worldwide have signed up to the programme. Watch this space for more game changing agencies on board.

Swati Bhattacharya, Creative Chairperson, FCB India tells us why she is so passionate about being involved: FCB strives to support diversity at its very core, and is proud to have outstanding female leaders in creative and business roles across the world. I really do believe that something happens to our brains after childbirth. I for one got sharper…maybe it’s the sleepless nights and chronic worrying. So I am over the moon to partner CreativeComeback in this mission to get mama’s back on the saddle at work. Everything they have learnt during their hiatus is everything an organisation needs to be – fierce and diverse.

Applications are open now through

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