Golin's initiative to support ad industry women reemerges—as a female-owned consultancy
"Have Her Back" started as a campaign to support female talent at agencies amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements—partly to help women who had been ostracized from the industry for challenging workplace sexual harassment. Now it's emerging as a women-owned consultancy for gender equity. Called Have Her Back Consulting, it will be backed by Interpublic Group of Cos.
Have Her Back Consulting will be led and majority-owned by a trio of women: Caroline Dettman, who resigned from her position as chief creative officer of IPG’s Golin for this venture; Erin Gallagher, who is also leaving Golin, where she was executive director of marketing; and Pamela Culpepper, who joins from The Chicago Board Options Exchange, where she was chief human resources officer. Culpepper had served from 2014 to 2016 as chief people officer at Golin, where she met her two business partners.
IPG will hold a minority stake in Have Her Back Consulting, having been an early supporter.
Dettman launched "Have Her Back" at Golin—originally as a campaign in partnership with The 3% Conference, SheSays and EvolveHer—to hold training events and tell the stories of sexual harassment survivors in advertising. She says it was critical for her and her partners to own the consultancy and made that objective known to IPG Chairman and CEO Michael Roth early on.
“I was like, ‘if we are going to be about advancing gender equity, then this business needs to be equitable in every sense of the word, which means, Michael, we’re not asking for this to be another IPG-owned company; we want to be female-owned,’” Dettman says, recalling the initial meeting she and Gallagher had with Roth when they unveiled plans to leave Golin to run Have Her Back as its own entity.
“When we walked in to pitch him this idea, we went in recognizing that we could be walked out by security,” she adds. Instead, Roth asked for Dettman and Gallagher to give him a business plan in two weeks. “We were like, ‘we gotta go,’” Dettman says with a laugh.
"Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are not just moral issues, they’re business imperatives,” Roth said in a statement. “We are proud to have been a part of the launch of Have Her Back, and look forward to seeing them continue their success and grow as an independent agency."
Golin Co-CEO Matt Neale also noted that the agency will continue to collaborate with the consultancy.
Have Her Back Consulting, whose three leaders are the only staff members for now, says it’s open for business immediately and will operate out of The Wing in Chicago, the WeWork-type network of professional and community spaces exclusively for women. It will work with brands and companies from the inside out, both to improve gender equity internally and in how they market to women.
Dettman says that going forward, Have Her Back Consulting will shift its focus to work with brands. She says the movement garnered a surprising amount of attention from companies in various sectors that showed up to the group's first event in Silicon Valley in the spring. “We started getting calls from brands and companies not even at the event going, ‘we need help,’” Dettman says. “My general feeling, and business plan, is brands and companies, most of them, have really good intentions, but they don’t know what to do with them.”
Dettman says Have Her Back Consulting can do anything from advising on a creative campaign to conducting an internal assessment on company culture. It can even help clients equalize pay, if the opportunity arises. “Pay equity is a big one. … At Golin, we addressed this three years ago,” she adds.
Ellen Johnson, the IPG senior vice president of finance and treasurer who is poised to become global chief financial officer of the holding company in 2020, will serve as a board member of Have Her Back Consulting. Both Johnson and Have Her Back Consulting are making a mark on agency history—Johnson is set to be the first global chief financial officer of an international holding company, and Have Her Back Consulting is the first female-owned entity backed by IPG.