2019 3% Conference: Change the Ratio
By: Joe Cole
Last week, I was able to attend and volunteer at the 3% Conference in Chicago.
If you don’t know what that is, here’s a brief overview. When Kat Gordon started the 3% Movement in 2010, only 3% of Creative Directors were women. Although they’ve helped raise the number of female CDs to 29%, there is still a long way to go in a world where women influence upwards of 80% of consumer spending and 60% of sharing on social media. But the 3% Conference isn’t a women’s conference; rather, it’s an industry event that seeks to highlight the importance of diversity to creativity by including everyone.
This year, they made it a goal to get more men to attend, reasoning that by immersing themselves in a deeper understanding of gender equality and the importance of diversity they would make more men into advocates for change.
All of the above is roughly paraphrased from their website, but 110% true on the ground and in-person. I wanted to attend because I am such a believer in their mission and the importance of diversity. I asked about volunteer opportunities and was lucky enough to be selected.
The standard industry event or conference often features presentations which are glorified, branded case studies and people glued to their laptops instead of listening or participating. Often, the best part of the events is the networking.
The 3% Conference was starkly different from anything I’ve ever been to.
Every panel and session was incredible — often, there were several I wanted to go to at once. I can’t wait to use the livestream code to go back and catch everything I missed. The ones I attended challenged my preconceptions and how I perceive the world — which is what I’m looking for as a creative strategist. All the presenters were amazing, elite leaders in their field, even if they were there to talk about something more personal. I saw presentations on leadership, diversity, mentorship, and the importance of creative democracy.
My favorite presentation was by the head of music at Apple, where he discussed his team’s unorthodox approach to music in ads (start with the song and work from there) and some parts of their process. I’m a nerd for interesting advertising insider knowledge, so I loved the story about how Apple had to basically beg Anderson .Paak and Dr. Dre to release the planned-to-never-be-released “Til It’s Over,” which they had already used in the Spike Jonze-directed, FKA Twigs-starring HomePod ad.
And still, one of the best parts was the networking, but only because everyone there was united by a common energy and purpose. I’ve never connected with so many high-powered, intelligent women and men from our industry. I even managed to have accidental 1-on-1 interactions with some of my favorite presenters. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer, as I worked alongside some of the amazing people who helped put on this incredible event.
I come back inspired and rededicated to championing the cause of equality at all levels in our industry, especially in the fields of creative and strategy. I firmly believe that the best work of the next decade will come from agencies who commit the hardest to a diverse workforce at all levels. I definitely hope to go back next year, and I’m very hopeful that I’ll be part of a larger M/H contingent!