If you missed the 3% Conference, here's the recap.

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Nearly a month ago, San Francisco played host to the 3% conference - named after the 3% of industry creative directors who are women. It's an embarrassing statistic that advertising should be actively trying to correct. The conference featured speaker after speaker with some of the most interesting conversation on the topic we've seen yet. For those of you couldn't make it, we asked Kat Gordon, founder, to give us a rundown.


Did you feel the earth shake on September 27? Yep, that was The 3% Conference.

Female Creative Directors may only represent 3% of our industry, but we’re a force to be reckoned with when we come together. The energy and passion on Thursday, September 27 was off the charts for the first-ever 3% Conference. 200 Creative Directors, recruiters, agency owners, copywriters and art directors gathered at OneL on Pine Street for a jam-packed day of problem-solving this age-old issue. Folks came from all over the country, representing dozens of agencies, including Wieden + Kennedy, Razorfish, McKinney, The Martin Agency, Goodby Silverstein, BBDO, DDB, AKQA, Eleven, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and many others.

The show stealer: Cindy Gallop’s keynote speech

Cindy Gallop’s amazingly watchable presentation style, which has made her a TED favorite, held the 3% Conference audience transfixed.

Among the key takeaways in Gallop’s message:

· The new creativity is women as they see themselves, not as men see them (through the male gaze)

· Women who speak up can be seen as bitches, but women who don’t are seen as weak and ineffective. If you’re damned if you do, doomed if you don’t, you might as well be the bitch and speak up.

· Men need to learn to live with discomfort. It’s uncomfortable hiring and promoting people who don’t look or think like you do. But “greatness comes from discomfort” and that short-lived adjustment will lead to breakthrough work and a healthier future for our entire industry.

You can (and should) watch Cindy’s keynote here. It’s perhaps the best 31 minutes you can devote to understanding the ways that advertising is broken and our best hopes for fixing it.

More a-ha moments

In “Top of the Food Chain,” advertising heavyweights like W+K ECD Susan Hoffman, Goodby Partner Margaret Johnson, and Paypal Global CD Cynthia Maller openly shared their failures on the way up the ladder. Johnson’s story was especially cringe-worthy, involving her first outdoor campaign at Goodby where her type was scaled so small, all boards had to be ripped down and reworked…on Jeff Goodby’s dime.

“Guys Who Get It” featured two agency men who openly champion for more women in the field: Tom Jordan, former Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of HY Connect, and Courtney Buechert, CEO of Eleven, Inc. Jordan shared before and after campaigns where his agency rethought work through a female lens and retested it to demonstrate greater effectiveness. Buechert’s perspective was that talent is the only true differentiator between agencies and any shop not intent on recruiting and retaining female creatives – especially in today’s overwhelmingly female marketplace – are at a huge disadvantage.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom shared a trailer from her documentary “Miss Representation,” and then sat down for an interview with Jess Weiner, Dove’s Global Ambassador for Self Esteem. Newsom’s message was a rally cry to the women in the audience: don’t leave the field and mentor more women through the ranks. Otherwise, the 3,000 marketing messages young girls and boys see every day will continue to run while possibly never encountering a female perspective or questions about how brands are depicting women in their ads.

The session titled “Our Own Worst Enemies” featured three PhD panelists, including Lori Nishiura Mackenzie of Stanford’s Clayman Institute who presented fascinating research about how gender can work against female candidates – with both men and women attributing greater skills to “John” versus “Jennifer” who possessed identical resumes.

In “Needed: More Cans in Cannes,” panelists looked at how the gender bias of award juries can unwittingly limit women’s visibility and mobility. A fascinating suggestion from Karen Mallia, an Advertising Professor at The University of South Carolina, was to do away with award shows entirely. Mallia explained that the origin of award shows was so creatives could find and know about each other — long before LinkedIn, agency websites, even AdAge. Now that creatives are discoverable in more ways than ever before, what role do award shows really serve?

Afternoon breakouts offer breakthrough ideas

The afternoon was devoted to smaller “how-to” sessions that addressed top issues for female creatives:

The Challenges of Motherhood (“Is Birth the Death for Female CDs?”)
How Digital Differs
Mastering Social Media
The Importance of Mentorship (“Pay It Forward”)
The Future of the Agency Workplace
Global Realities of Female Creatives (“Our Sisters Overseas”)
Genderize Your Marketing

Wrapping up the day was “Be The Change You Want to See,” a panel chaired by Nancy Hill, CEO of the 4A’s. Four senior women outlined what diversity plans look like in practice and the importance of having metrics in place to know how your agency is doing on the issue.

Then there were cocktails. And chatter. And a general mood of “how great is this” and “when can we do it again?”

Mark your calendars for 2013

Exit surveys from the conference revealed a desire for more… of everything. As a result, I am planning a 2-day event for September 2013 with multiple tracks for senior and junior ad women, more networking, longer sessions and more client involvement. Once again it will be right here in the City by the Bay. Please come.


I got a call from Kat Gordon about a year ago asking if I'd be interested in being part of an idea she had for something brand new called "The 3% Conference." I immediately said 'yes' but wondered how in the world she would be able to pull this all together.

She did. And it was incredible. In many ways, this was our Woodstock.

I have been to countless conferences where you were lucky if one or two of the speakers brought content and relevance.Here...every one of them did. It was the best conference I've ever attended. Can't wait for next year. I suggest you book early. The word is spreading. I'm proud to have been a small part of this unique happening.

I agree with Tom (who is a marvelous fellow and speaker himself) - this is one of the best conferences I've ever attended, and I've attended quite a few. Do book early! Can't wait for next year.

Agreed wholeheartedly. I came back from SF totally energized and full of more confidence than I've had in a very long time. I go to a lot of these conferences, and this was the best by far.

Do yourself and the world at large a favor and attend next year's conference. Whether you're a man or a woman. Actually, especially if you're a man.

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