Taylor Cook, Critical Mass: "We take an intersectional lens to everything we do."

Creating space for the real work to continue, the agency strives to make all voices heard


Critical Mass
Calgary, Canada
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Taylor Cook
Director of DE&I Critical Mass

Critical Mass' Director of DE&I, Taylor Cook, delineates the agency's programs and policies for creating a fairer, more equitable workplace for women.


When we sit down as a DE&I board and the topic of making an equitable workplace for women comes up, it’s always connected to a larger conversation about gender equality. In other words, we take an intersectional lens to everything we do. We all ought to know by now that women have multifaceted identities, but we also understand that gender equality entails non-binary people. So, it’s never a narrow discussion. We make room for complex conversations that reveal deeper, and often more subtle challenges when it comes to making new policies and programs — things designed to have a real and positive impact on the lives of large numbers of employees.

And we have a big responsibility to put in that harder work, because we’re surrounded by a huge culture-making engine — a digital marketing agency that works in 12 global offices and is a partner to massive global brands whose advertising and content can be seen pretty much everywhere. Living our DE&I values impacts not only who we are as an agency, but also how we show up for clients, whose brands we have a big impact on. (And to that end, our board has established helpful guidelines about working with clients to infuse DE&I into team casting and the work we do).

But today, I want to talk a little bit about the impact we’ve had at Critical Mass. Three programs come to mind when I think of ways that we’ve tried to make a fairer, more equitable workplace for women.

The Ascend program

I've made it a personal mission to champion the advancement of BIPOC junior-level talent at Critical Mass. Employees who are Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color face a unique set of challenges, and representation at the leadership level remains disproportionately low across our industry. Ascend, which launches this quarter, will help us support rising racially diverse talent and ensure they’re equipped with tools and stepping stones to career advancement—mentorship opportunities, access to resources, and creating platforms for their voices to be heard.

Keep Co.

Of course, it’s also true that outside of work, women perform a lot of extra care, and for women raising families, career setbacks are all too common. A few years ago, our women’s affinity lead (on the DE&I Board) spoke with employees at Critical Mass about their experiences with going on leave and returning to work following the arrival of a new child. No two employees had quite the same experience, but patterns emerged. From that data and feedback, Keep Co. was born. It’s a voluntary mentorship program that pairs parents (all birthing parents and their partners) with those who have taken leave in the past. And we also recognized that non-binary people can give birth and adopt children, so our language and program structure needed to reflect and include them as well. In addition to mentorship, Keep Co. also includes an extended benefits package that includes Phoebe (pre/post-natal care) and Carrot (family planning services). The overall goal of this program is to support parents before, during, and after a new child arrives. We’ve also improved our parental leave beyond legal requirements, including more time away, more partnerships/benefits, and special allowances for non-birthing partners.


Childcare isn’t the only form of care that disproportionately falls to women. Our age affinity lead experienced something that many older employees face — using vacation to provide eldercare. We found that 11.9% of CM employees are currently engaged in these responsibilities, and it impacts all levels: from worldwide leadership to junior-level employees. We now have an eldercare program, Concentric. It provides a bank of up to 40 additional hours of paid time off, among other benefits, to anyone needing time to care for someone else in their life. It also spares people from having to explain in too much detail why they’ll be out of the office. “I have Concentric scheduled for next Thursday.” That’s all anyone needs to know.

There’s one last area I want to point to — retention. A company’s retention strategies also play a pivotal role in empowering women. Establishing mentorship programs, leadership development initiatives, and transparent pathways for career progression are vital components of a holistic approach to retaining top female talent. And, as an industry, and within our agency, we’re making strides. But there’s still work to be done. Beyond gender, when we acknowledge all aspects of identity, including age, ability, sexual orientation, and race, as integral to a workplace that truly values and celebrates diversity, can the real work continue.