Golin launches 'Have Her Back' initiative to empower female creatives

Golin chief creative officer Caroline Dettman is leading the campaign. She cited toxic environments as the reason why women creatives are leaving agencies.

Following in the footsteps of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, Golin has launched the "Have Her Back" initiative, with the goal of hiring, training and empowering female creative directors.

The Interpublic Group agency launched the campaign on Thursday and is holding a training event in Chicago at evolveHer on April 10, which is Equal Pay Day. Caroline Dettman, Golin’s chief creative officer, is leading the initiative.

Golin has committed to doubling the percentage of women on its ideator track, who are working towards executive creative director roles, each year through 2020. The firm is also partnering with The 3% Movement to co-create "manbassador" trainings to determine how men can support and advance women in the workplace.

Golin will also work with SheSays, a nonprofit focused on the engagement, education and advancement of women in the creative industries, to host training sessions in other markets.

"The ultimate irony is that, at agencies, we have said all along that female equality matters to us," said Dettman. "But from a female creative director standpoint, we haven’t moved that needle."

The number of female creative directors in the industry is diminutive compared to their male counterparts. While the percentage has grown from 3 percent to 11 percent in the past few years, it is still far from being equal, Dettman explained.

"Every day, we inspire our clients to right wrongs and improve the human condition," said Dettman. "But it’s time we recognize that within our own walls we have something we have to do to inspire change."

"Have Her Back" is targeting creative women who have left the industry—or have been forced out—due to sexual harassment, sexual assault and inequality in the workplace. It was formed to help "those who have soldiered on with little to show for it," according to a statement from the firm.

"As an agency culture, what we have seen, openly, is it’s a toxic environment [for women]," said Dettman, adding that culture is a reason why female creatives are leaving agencies or switching to freelance roles. "We have incredible freelance talent that we believe we should bring back into agencies in a culture in which they can thrive."

Golin is targeting these women through chat groups, such as the Girlsday Facebook group, which has more than 3,000 members who are agency or freelance creatives. Girlsday founder Megan Colleen McGlynn is set to speak at Golin’s "Have Her Back" event.

"This community is small and everybody knows everybody," said Dettman. "We are all involved in the same chat groups and attend the same events. So we are getting this message and campaign in all the right places to make sure they are seeing it."

Additionally, Golin’s executive creative directors have committed that they will not fill a position unless one of the top two candidates is diverse.

"The candidate doesn’t have to be female, but must be diverse, because we have to diversify our creative department," said Dettman. Golin also has a separate diversity and inclusion initiative.

For the past five months, Golin has also created internal task forces and held town halls and focus groups to tackle the issues of sexual harassment, assault and inequality in the workplace.

"It’s not enough for an agency to walk out a harasser; you have to look at your culture and ask why that was enabled in the first place," said Dettman. "You can commit to doing all the training and hires in the world, but if you don’t shift that culture, nothing changes. With help and coming together as an industry, we can figure out how to do that."