VisibleStart programme helps midlife women get back on their feet

The VisibleStart programme – a free training programme that aims to support midlife women’s influence and careers in the marketing and advertising industry – launched across the UK as an eight-week online course for women from all backgrounds and walks of life.

The programme, initially launched in London in 2021, was created by Brixton Finishing School, the leading industry accelerator programme for untapped diverse talent and Uninvisibility, an agency focused on changing the narrative of midlife women, and backed by global marketing and communications leader WPP.

Designed to champion midlife female talent, VisibleStart has seen 19 women over 45 placed into positions within WPP, and two placed into roles in the wider industry.

It aims to provide a variety of career options; from entry level to senior management in all areas of advertising from admin and HR to sales, digital media and creative. No experience is necessary to take part in the course, and all experience is valued, encourage and welcomed.

The initiative’s overall aim is to upskill and future-proof the careers of participants by providing training in digital media including programmatic, search, SEO and paid social, as well as hosting a series of live confidence-building events alongside an online learning platform.

The women in the first cohort included Samantha Lewis who spent the early part of her career in the industry before starting her own business. When looking to return, she was told the gap had been too long.

Through the VisibleStart programme she was able to secure an Account Manager role at Kinetic. About her experience Samantha said: “I feel like I’ve been given another chance. I have had an amazing experience being a part of the Visible Start course and I have met some wonderful ladies with a wealth of experience and skills.

We have created a little community amongst ourselves which continues outside the course. I’ve also had a great experience transitioning into my new role, it was very smooth and Kinetic has been so welcoming!”

Another member of the cohort includes Fiona Cameron who has taken on the role of GroupM’s Senior Learning and Development Business Partner and is also on the support team for the VisibleStart 2022 programme.

Fiona said: “The VisibleStart Programme is an opportunity for midlife women to make real changes to their working future. Through the power of connection, VisibleStart actively links women to suitable roles by advocating and highlighting women’s transferable skills, along with life experience. It’s a supercharged women’s society and recruitment network rolled into one!”

She continued: “This programme tackles ageism head on, I joined GroupM organisation at age 60, and I love the new challenge of being back in a corporate environment; continuing to learn new skills and mixing with talented professionals. Personally, VisibleStart has offered the possibility of a new phase and greater potential of longevity in my working career, where my lived experience, as well as my knowledge is valuable and valued”.

Ally Owen, Founder, Brixton Finishing School, says: “I am so proud of the work we’ve achieved so far with VisibleStart, and this is only the beginning. I have no doubt that women all over the UK will benefit from this, we’ve placed 21 women into fantastic roles already – we can do this at an even larger scale. There is so much potential out there,  I can’t wait to see it flourish in the right spaces. All spaces need women over 45 – as a society we  have under served, undervalued and under delivered to those in their prime for too long”.

Jane Evans says: “Women 45+ were the pioneers of modern women’s careers and have myriad skills and experience to bring to the business world. But they face gendered ageism at almost every turn. Uninvisibility is dedicated to creating a new narrative for midlife women and their place in society.

Our book “Invisible To Invaluable. Unleashing the power of midlife women” by white feminist Jane Evans and Black womanist Carol Russell sets out a manifesto and rally cry that is essential reading for any woman in midlife and any employer who is looking for a solution to the talent crisis.”

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, further commented: “At WPP, building an inclusive culture is not just the right thing to do, but a business imperative. Diverse teams better understand our clients’ consumers, and we create more innovative and insightful work that resonates with audiences. We want to be an employer of choice for all, which is why I’m incredibly proud of our partnership to launch VisibleStart nationwide to support midlife women who want to build their skills and confidence, join or re-enter our industry, and most importantly for WPP, to help us build our talent pipeline.”