In early November, I spent two full days with some of the most talented creatives in the business at the 3% Conference in New York City. Unfamiliar with the 3% Conference? See what it’s all about here, and check out my recap of the experience below—hopefully it will inspire some of you to attend, or send some of your folks for a creative kick in the ass.
So why is the conference named 3%? Six years ago, only 3% of Creative Director roles in the US were held by women. A few very determined women—including Kat Gordan (founder of the 3% movement)—thought this number was atrocious. Banding together they formed a coalition to help bring this number closer to 50%. Thus, the 3% Conference was born.
This year’s theme, “Beyond Gender,” highlighted the growing disparity not only between men and women in the industry but also people of color, the LGBTQ community, and those with disabilities.
Day 1 included break-out tracks after our keynote speech discussion for the emcee, Luvvie Ajayi. If you’ve never heard of her, please, I’m begging you—pick up her book I’m Judging You—it is hysterical. The tracks included the “Emerging Creative” track for junior creatives, the “Leadership Track” for those beginning their managerial experience, the “Manbassadors Track” for men in attendance, and finally, the “Creative Director Track,” which I attended.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the venue. HOLY COW, the Manhattan Center is gorgeous. The staff was incredible and the technical skills of those helping put on each lecture were impeccable. One thing to note; the building itself seems to be biased. Did you know that building temperatures are set based on male metabolic rates from the 1960s? The high ceilings and the unseasonably warm autumn weather didn’t help when it came to staying warm in the main lecture hall. Other than my shivering hand trying to take notes, I really have no complaints.
The Creative Director Track included lectures, round table discussions and case studies, all of which kept the attention of the audience in the main lecture hall and I seemed to find relevance in each and every talk. A highlight included listening to Todd Henry share his thoughts on leadership, emotional well-being, and influence within the agency model.
The day concluded with a happy hour, allowing us to network and get to know those around us. Given the current climate of gender bias, sexual harassment and assault in the news, I knew this would be a hot topic amongst us. Something I couldn’t help but notice, however, was that with each conversation, we all had a story to tell. Each one of us had been touched by this epidemic in some way. Some more impactful then others, but significant none the less. It was sad and also somewhat comforting to know that we all had something in common.
Day 2 started with a hysterical kick-off from Kyle Cease who titles himself a “Transformational Comedian.” You may recognize his name from Comedy Central’s Standup Showdown. Kyle’s keynote deserves way more than a paragraph in this already long blog post, so look out for a future post from me all about it.
Kat Jordan and Vanessa Reid presented the findings from a year-long study of women in agencies. While the research showed progress, there is still a lot of work to be done. To date, 29% of creative directors are women.
Finally, the closing keynote was done by Cindy Gallop. She is the raw punch in the gut this industry needs to stay honest. Her presentation centered on sexual harassment in the agency world, the NDA agreements that protect those who commit this unfair crime, and was the kick in the ass that every person needed. Cindy’s call to action ordered us to start the “advertising agencies of tomorrow.” I walked out of the Manhattan Center wanting and ready to take on the world.
The 3% Percent Conference isn’t just for women and it’s not just for men that “need a reminder.” The 3% Percent Conference is for every human being working in the agency world. I hope that I can remember all the great lessons I learned even in the darkest of moments of my career, or at least until next year’s conference.