These Powerful Swedish Ad Women Aim to Create a Global Network of Female Talent

'We were always outnumbered at our workplace'

Lina Franzon (left) and Johanna Johansson (right) look to create a global search engine for ad women. Johanna Johansson and Lina Franzon

Men at the helm of most agencies will soon be unable to use the excuse of being unable to find women to fill your open positions. That’s thanks to two female Swedish powerhouses who only recently broke into the advertising industry.

After creating the search engine site Kreatörskvinnor a year ago to find ad women in Sweden, Lina Franzon, a copywriter at TBWA Stockholm, and Johanna Johansson, art director at Volt in Stockholm, are looking to extend their efforts globally. By 2018, Franzon and Johansson aim to launch a global search engine site,, for ad women looking for work and a way to connect with one another.

To launch the site by the new year, Franzon and Johansson must first have it developed. In order to do that, they have to raise at least $17,930. They are calling on agencies to contribute to their kickstarter campaign to do so. Once they have the minimal funds, the two women plan to hire only female developers to create the site. As of Thursday morning, TBWA, DDB and Swedish agencies Folket and Tillsammans donated to the cause, making the two women already not far from being 50 percent funded. “We want to create a space for women by women,” Franzon said.

One of their longer-term goals is “for the site not needing to exist at all,” Franzon noted, speaking to Adweek over the phone from her apartment in Stockholm Wednesday afternoon.

“[Johansson and I] were working together when we entered the industry three years ago,” Franzon said. “We were always outnumbered at our workplace, and we felt no one made the effort to find female talent. We often were met with the excuse that there were no female candidates out there.”

Franzon and Johansson both graduated from Berghs School of Communication in the summer of 2015. Before starting in their current jobs, the two worked at a local agency together and instantly realized they had barely any other female colleagues. But when they brought this up to male executives, they were repeatedly delivered the same excuse: They just couldn’t find any female talent. That’s why Franzon and Johansson took it upon themselves to manually sift through the databases of every Swedish agency to find it. The initial effort landed them on 100 profiles of women who agreed to contribute their names, work histories and platforms to the network. As of Wednesday, they had almost 700 profiles.

“The applications are still coming, and we haven’t advertised the site at all,” Franzon said, once again proving that the notion of ad women being few and far between is an outdated one.

As Franzon was chatting with Adweek, she was also starting to send out email invites to the big agencies (McCann Worldgroup, Leo Burnett, Y&R, Droga5, etc.) asking them to contribute to the development of an international network and gain access to their female leaders.

If the search engine is paid for by agencies, Franzon explained that the network will not be owned just by herself and Johansson, but by the industry as a whole. “We would own it together, and that would be nice,” she added.

Franzon and Johansson envision that, once the network is complete, agencies will be able to search for prospective female talent by region, position and the work experience they seek. The site will feature profiles of creatives, producers, designers, developers, photographers, directors and many more as it gains traction.

The network could also help fuel other efforts that have emerged in recent years to diversify the ad industry including Free the Bid, a nonprofit that works to get at least one female director in every agency’s pitch process for a production company.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.