Theresa Miller was front-row and centre at last week’s 3% Conference. Here’s her report on the choicest quotes and amazing talks from the day…
“I like blowing shit up,” is the war cry of Cindy Gallop, who gave the electrifying keynote at the end of The inaugural 3% Conference Australasia in Sydney.
Striding onto the stage in a zippered, black leather cat suit and swinging her trademark blonde bob, she delivered her empowering manifesto in a British accent that could cut glass, including a few ceilings.
It was the grand finale in a day that began with the desultory facts that despite women making 80 per cent of all household purchasing decisions, only a fraction of them hold positions of power in the advertising industry.
Thanks to the work of The 3% Movement, which began revolutionising the American ad world six years ago, that ratio has crept up to around 15 per cent.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement, especially in Australian workplaces, which are amongst the world’s most gender segregated, according to Jade Collins, co-founder of Femeconomy.
The inaugural Australian 3% conference showcased an impressive line-up of dynamic women striking out on their own, and thriving, not only in advertising, but also in recruitment, sport and business.
Among them is Georgie McEnroe, stand up comic and radio presenter turned business owner. Shebah is Australia’s first all female ride share service for women and children. Launched on International Women’s Day in March 2017, Shebah almost broke the app store in its first 24 hours with a record number of downloads.
Georgie said the idea came to her after one of the worst days of her life.
“I was driving along Punt Road in Melbourne thinking about what a punt my husband was for leaving me with four little kids and wondering how I could make a living.” This is when the idea came to her. Then the name came to her in a dream. “Queen Shebah challenged the traditional wisdom of King Solomon.”
Another kick-in-the-guts moment spurred Jane Evans to start her own content marketing company. Despite a stellar advertising career, including creating Australia’s iconic craft beer, James Squire and helping Sydney win the Olympics, when Jane returned to the UK she couldn’t get a job.
“I applied for around a hundred jobs and couldn’t get a look in. Being over 50, I realised I was invisible. So I started The Invizibles.”
These days, corporate clients are pushing back by demanding advertising agencies’ put women on their creative teams.
According to Anna Green from the Boston Consulting Group, companies with more female leaders are 15 per cent more profitable and report greater staff satisfaction and less fraud. In Nordic countries, which celebrate higher ratios of female leadership, there’s less violence against women.
During the conference coffee and lunch breaks the talk among delegates was mostly upbeat. Along with the war stories of surviving workplace discrimination, women and men exchanged tactics on how to level the playing field.
“It’s exciting to hear there is an appetite for change in the industry,” said Jo Gobbo from iknowho Recruitment Agency.
Dene Gambotto, also from iknowho, said every ad agency should look at ‘blind c.v.s’ when assessing candidates, to rule out gender bias.
“Men need to also ask for more flexibility at work to fit in with their families,” one male advertising executive told B&T.
Kath (no surname given), an events manager, said she was inspired to set up speed mentoring at her company to give younger women the career support they needed.
Jordyana McDowell from FCB New Zealand said the conference had ignited her growing passion to do something creative to capture people’s stories.
“I want to launch a project to record and write people’s memoirs,” Jordayna said.
Her colleague Jane loved the story about the women in President Obama’s communications team ‘amplifying’ each other. “They supported each other’s ideas out loud in meetings so that they couldn’t be ignored or let men take the credit for them.”
A member of the Buzzfeed sales team said he was heartened to hear some HR departments were pro-actively pushing women into leadership roles they were equipped for, even if they didn’t feel quite ready. The results have been positive.
“Women need to ask for what they want, and be confident,” said mentor and coach Kylee Fitzpatrick.
Many delegates were impressed with the start up success stories. “It’s great to hear that women who were told they couldn’t be executive creative directors have left to start their own agencies,” said Ashling Withers from Landor Branding.
That’s exactly what happened to award-winning advertising creative, Kimmie Neidhardt who returned to work after having her first child only to realise she would never get the job of ECD.
“So I quit and started BURD with Simone Brandse and we called ourselves creative directors. We don’t even have an office. We do great work and stop in time to pick up the kids from day care,” Neidhardt said.
Aoife Brennan from Landor Branding is cautious about the changes in big business. “Many companies talk about diversity and inclusion and offer work flexibility. But what do their businesses actually look like when you walk in the door? If the blokes still have the big offices with views and the women are bunched into a corner, then it’s just symbolism. We need real policies to prove everyone gets the benefits.”
Diana Leach, a D.O.P with her own company, Street Life Films agrees.
“Looking back at my time in a Melbourne ad agency, I realise I was side-lined to commercials about fashion, babies and food,” she said. “That’s why I set up my own agency and now I collaborate with smart, creative women.”
And the last word must go to the foremother of disruption, Cindy Gallop who says: “Homogeneity is the enemy of creativity. Diversity drives creativity, which drives profitability.”