October 08, 2012

The 3% Conference: a phenomenon

In a word, wow.

The 3% Conference in San Francisco last week was the first of its kind. Based on a premise that still shocks me no matter how often I write it—though women are responsible for 80-85% of buying decisions, only 3% of creative directors are female—Kat Gordon of Maternal Instinct brought together creative directors from across the globe for a one-day powwow.

I’ve since talked with several of the women who attended, and the reaction is the same: a sort of positive bedazzlement. Filled to the brim with amazing moments, the conference went by far too quickly.

For me, the most magic was in the positive dynamics between the women themselves. Powerhouses from big-name agencies, women from the Fortune 500, and entrepreneurs alike supported each other and the idea behind the event.

My role was in moderating “Pay It Forward: Mentorship,” and panelists Nancy Hannon of The Martin Agency, Kammie McArthur of Swirl, and Cheeraz Gorman of Alchemy 7 Creative were fantastic. The room was filled with an audience who brought thoughtfulness and energy to the conversation.

Because there are so many good stories to share this recap will be done in two parts, one today and one tomorrow. So without further ado here’s a recap of the conference with personal highlights, and don’t forget to also check out a video montage of the 3% Conference.

A ball of fire led off the day: Cindy Gallop (of TED conference fame) gave the morning keynote. I came away with three key thoughts:

  • The new creativity is women seen as they see themselves, not as men see them (the male lens)

  • We need to redesign not just how we market, but the way we do business and how we make money. The age of male-created business models is transitioning into one with women’s values

  • Women who speak up can be seen as b*tches, but women who don’t are seen as weak and ineffective. If you’re damned if you, doomed if you don’t, do good by speaking up

    Joey Cummings of The Joey Company moderated this panel with Susan Hoffman of Wieden+Kennedy, Margaret Johnson of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and Cynthia Maller of PayPal. I was struck by how fearlessly candid each panelist was:

  • One shared not just her successes but one spectacular failure (after which she clawed her way back over an astonishing eight years—that’s perseverance)

  • Another denied the idea of making sacrifices to rise in one’s career, saying they were her choices to make

    Author Jess Weiner, Dove’s Global Ambassador for Self Esteem, interviewed Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director of the 2011 Sundance documentary Miss Representation. What sticks with me is Jennifer’s tale of prepping for an interview with Rosie O’Donnell along with other women who had appeared in the film. Surprised when she arrived in the green room at the appearance of her cohorts, who had been heavily made up by the show’s makeup artists, her request to have her hair pulled back in a simple ponytail was met with dismay. Special approval, it seemed, was required for a hairstyle considered less than sexy—an ironic blind spot on the part of the network, given the interview topic was to be the exploitation of women in marketing and the media.

    In this, one of the sessions I enjoyed most, Carol Williams of CHWA moderated a panel with Stanford’s Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, executive coach Barbara Mack, Christie Cordes of Ad Recruiter, and Lauren Tucker of The Martin Agency.

  • Lori made one of the most striking comments of the conference: women who choose to be dominant and decisive or nurturing and friendly, depending on the situation, are promoted more often than simply dominant and decisive men

  • Barbara had some interesting thoughts on nonverbal psychology; for instance, women who nod are seen as less effective. (Women nod to show they’re listening, not only to indicate agreement; the other gender must not always realize this)

  • Christie shared the four career mistakes of social media: being invisible, lacking consistency across platforms, choosing privacy over promotion, and hesitating to “friend” industry titans

    EMMY-winning creative director Hélène Coté and panelists including Ale Lariu of SheSays and Karen Mallia of the University of South Carolina discussed awards given by guys for ad campaigns created by guys.

  • One interesting point: a University of Chicago study shows that creating competitive incentives for individuals can put women at a disadvantage.

  • Women, if you’re looking for a mentor or want to mentor someone else, look no further than SheSays! Contact Ale (short for Alessandra) and she’ll hook you up.

    A gluten-free treat (thank you, organizers!) awaited us in a sunny courtyard: a delicious salmon lunch. At my table were the superb Ana Blaj of senior care startup ageModern and the super fun Kari Niles of Razorfish, along with five other wonderful women and a lot of lively conversation: Kristi Faulkner and Susan Sabean of Womenkind, Emily Honigsfeld and Christine Gault of Colle+McVoy, and Ann Lehman of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, and check back tomorrow to hear more about this great conference. It only gets better from here!

    Contributed by Tiffany Jonas.

    Guest blogger Tiffany Jonas manages the Verbal Branding department at Addison Whitney. She spends her days developing taglines and brand names for companies, products, pharmaceutical drugs, clinical trials, and just about anything else you can think of.


    1. Tiffany Jonas   October 8, 2012 3:47 pm / Reply

      PHOTO CAPTION: One of the best sessions of the day, the “Our Own Worst Enemies” panel. I was fortunate to have a seat in the fourth row of the sold-out auditorium. On stage, from left to right: Carol Williams, Lori Mackenzie, Barbara Mack, Lauren Tucker, and Christie Cordes.

    2. Kat Gordon   October 8, 2012 6:51 pm / Reply

      Great recap, Tiffany!

      One other takeaway that shook me in my boots from the morning sessions was Karen Mallia’s suggestion about the award shows: do away with them. Her academic studies of advertising taught her that the origin of award shows was so creatives could find and know about each other — long before LinkedIn, agency websites, even AdAge. Have we outgrown these forced competitions + are there better ways to judge work… i.e. did it sell?!

    3. Rebecca Rivera   October 9, 2012 1:55 pm / Reply

      As I listened to the many 3% speakers and chatted with other women Creative Directors, I was mindful of how rare it is that we have a chance to be the change we hope to see. Thanks for Part I of your recap, which I know will benefit everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be there as history was being made. Can’t wait for Part II.

    4. Jennifer Comet Wagner   October 14, 2012 1:22 pm / Reply

      I read something about the conference when it was still in the planning stages and then forgot to follow up on it. I would have loved to attend.

    5. Marci Rich   October 14, 2012 3:46 pm / Reply

      Fantastic article…really wish I could have experienced this conference first-hand. I’d love to share it on my LinkedIn page but I’m not finding a share button.

    6. Pam@over50feeling40   October 14, 2012 9:38 pm / Reply

      Excellent post! One of my problems with fashion merchandising is that it so often misses the mark for the Baby Boomer audience…this seriously might be for some of the reasons stated here. I have been inundated with surveys from clothing retailers attempting to figure out what changes to make…maybe they just need to hire some women!!

    7. Tiffany Jonas   October 22, 2012 4:58 pm / Reply

      Jennifer, come next year! It sounds like it will be even bigger and as exciting, if not more so. I think it will be in San Francisco again, which was also pretty great.

      Marci, thanks for highlighting this… I’ll see if we can’t look into that.

      Pam, I completely agree!

    Leave a Reply to Marci Rich Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *