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Highlights from the 1st Annual 3% Conference

Senior Agency Manager Tracy Toepfer and I recently returned from the first annual 3% Conference in San Francisco, recognizing and discussing female creative leads in advertising. Travelling over two days and close to 6,000 miles, we learned that Perficient Digital is something of an anomaly; women make up 50% of our Experience Design (creative) leads, proving that we are far ahead of the curve when it comes to the rest of our industry—and here is why:
First the Facts:

  • Women make up 80% of the purchasing power among consumers.
  • 3% is the number of women in Creative Director roles within advertising.

Now, if only numbers could talk! Oh wait, I think they just did. It’s apparent that more women should be involved in creating the messages and campaigns that are aimed at other women.
Step outside of the potential financial consequences of not capitalizing on having more female perspectives, and consider the fact that today, more women than men are graduating with degrees in advertising, marketing, and design. So in effect, we are ignoring 50% of the talent pool by not hiring and promoting female creatives.
Still don’t think women are being overlooked? A Princeton University study proves how blind auditions actually help the likelihood of women receiving call backs by half.
Think about it this way: More diversity = more creativity. People are wonderfully unique, with their own set of needs and concerns. The more perspective we have (on every level, not just the female point of view), the more likely we are to strike a chord with someone where and when it matters most.
The bottom line—gender equality and diversity is good for business.
At the Butt of Discomfort is Change:
Looking around the Main Hall, we had to wonder: where are the other 97%? The conference was an open invitation to women and men—yet there were only 10 men present, in a sea of hundreds of women. Two rather brave men in the “Guys Who Get It” panel gave us an explanation: “fear and discomfort.”
I admire their honesty and support, but here’s the thing: men helped me to get where I am today. Their support brought me to this conference; they helped make me a part of the 3%. I’d hate to think that any of them feel afraid or uncomfortable about speaking on behalf of my, or any other woman’s, talents.
So in the future, I will not be afraid to ask: Where are all the women in advertising? And where are the men that support this change? One thing that has become apparent is that the only thing that is going to make this industry squirm or shift in its seat is the tough questions.
Mean Girls Aren’t Just Teen Girls:
It’s not just about men supporting women; it’s about women supporting women. Most sexism in the workplace is unconscious and not gender specific. Ladies, we must understand that men and other women are not against us. It’s that we’ve allowed perceptions to shape our reality—one more reason why our perceptions and perspectives must change.
We even do it to ourselves. Women-on-women workplace bullying is on the rise.
We need to not be our own worst enemies. Don’t see another woman with talent as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to change the status quo. Don’t be afraid to promote your feminine viewpoint. This business is all about your gut. When you get that knot in the pit of your stomach, don’ just let it sink—you have a voice and valuable point of view to offer. Speak up! And don’t just point to faults – have solutions in mind.
Finally, You Cannot Be What You Cannot See.
Men and women alike—be the change you wish to see in the world. Mentor and support one another. Creativity born from fear and competition doesn’t hold a candle to creativity born from passion and understanding.
If you’re in this business, you have to love it. Love it enough to make it better for everyone involved.
Here’s to the (more than) 3% 2013!
Special Thanks to:
Tracy Toepfer – for the great recommendation
JT Anderson – for your support and making the trip possible
Steve Glauberman – for your support and making the trip possible
Kat Gordon – creator of the 3% Conference

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