Thought Leadership

M&C Saatchi open the door to the next generation of talent through the Carbon Academy

A groundbreaking partnership with the University of Greenwich has shown the power of action when it comes to increasing diversity in advertising.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE


“Our aim was to catch young women when they’re just wondering what to do,” explained Miriam Sorrentino, a senior lecturer in graphic design, advertising and branding at the University of Greenwich and an Art Director who helped to launch the Carbon Academy. The Academy was launched almost exactly a year ago after Sorrentino and Justin Tindall, Group Chief Creative Officer at M&C Saatchi, decided action must be taken to “change the talent pool” in advertising.

Sorrentino recognised from her experience at the University of Greenwich that advertising was not often taught from a perspective of the potential it posed for young women. She wanted to offer young women a tangible answer to the question of, “How can you be creative in a way you aren’t at school?” The core goal for the Academy was to give young women a perspective on the industry that they may not otherwise have had; to offer them up an alternate career path.

So, as a partnership between agency and university, supported by consultation from Isabel Farchy, Founder and CEO at the Creative Mentor Network, the team devised a scheme that would give young women, or those who identify as women, from inner city schools a chance to take part in a 10-month training scheme, which M&C Saatchi would host.

of creative directors are women
amount female creative directors are paid less than their male peers
of creative women receive any training whatsoever

Last week, M&C Saatchi hosted the graduation of the Academy’s first six young women to pass through the doors of the scheme. Each student was paired with a female leader who worked at M&C Saatchi who acted as their mentor throughout the programme. The students participated in monthly creative briefs, visiting exhibitions as well as industry events.

On a panel chaired by BITE’s Managing Editor Nicola Kemp, the students revealed the reasons why they decided to join the Academy and what they’d taken from it. The answers ranged from wanting to meet likeminded people to being given the push they needed to embark on a creative path. As one of the young women, Olamide Taiwo revealed about what she’d take away from the Academy, “I learnt to always be creative and never limit myself.”

The mentees then sat on stage alongside their mentors as each talked about the journey they’d come on over the course of the year. Amy Westbrook, a creative at M&C Saatchi Sports and Entertainment spoke about her experience of mentoring as one of reciprocal learning: “We learnt a lot from one another.” The mentors also talked about their experience of being trained to mentor, noting that listening is a core skill.

Off the back of the Academy’s first year success, they are now taking applicants for the class of 2020. The agency is also looking to devise a Creative Pioneers Apprenticeships scheme alongside the IPA. As Tindall explained, “We wanted to make this project self-fulfilling.” The hope is that the scheme will be up and running by Spring 2020.

To find out more about the graduating class of 2019 or the Academy itself, visit M&C Saatchi’s website.