When Bec Brideson brought the idea to The Misfits (publisher of B&T) to bring the famous 3% Conference to Australia, we knew it’d be a great thing to do. What I was perhaps less ready for was the emotions it evoked in men.
In many ways, the equality and inclusion revolution sweeping the world is a little like climate change and fossil fuels. Coal’s cheap, effective and its impacts are slow to register and hard to measure. Subsequently, there’s still plenty of climate change deniers out there.
Why has the argument taken so long to register? Because doing nothing is easier. Dr Susan David will explain the science behind that at 3%; change is hard.
But then along came Elon Musk. Musk saw the big picture. Rather than a compliance issue (reduce carbon emissions and so on), he saw a business opportunity.
Through SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity he built three different businesses all of which nearly bankrupted him at one time or another, but which all sat within the same vision of a cleaner, greener future being an inevitability and therefore something to pursue doggedly.
Not only has he shocked three of the most entrenched industries along the way, the automotive, power and aerospace industries, he’s revitalized parts of the American manufacturing industry. Dare I say, he’s set a path to make America great again.
Meanwhile, his competitors, who once blew him off as sitting somewhere on the spectrum between complete nut job and small annoyance, have been caught with their pants down and have years and years of R&D, facility builds and what not to try and catch-up.
It’s like Apple’s launch of the iPhone. Nokia, Samsung, HTC didn’t see it coming and it took them years to get their first smart phones on the market. By then Apple’s market dominance was complete.
In our world, marketing, communications, advertising, selling stuff, call it what you will, the winds of change are every bit as evident that something needs to be done.
This isn’t a compliance issue, this is an opportunity. Yet like climate change deniers, we’re not really doing anything about it. We’re still acting in a compliance mindset. Women in senior roles remains stubbornly low and pay equality remains 50 years away. Really? And justifications and excuses are rife.
You would have seen we ran a survey to gather Australian data for 3 per cent. Of all the respondents, 18 per cent were men. Similarly, of all the tickets we’ve sold thus far to 3%, excluding sponsors who haven’t allocated tickets to individuals as of yet, only a small fraction of delegates are men.
What’s this tell me? I’ve failed thus far. I don’t want 3% to be a room full of women. Women get this. They know what the reality is. They make 85 per cent of all purchasing decisions yet we keep making ads for them made by men.
So yes, I have failed to successfully position this issue where I’ve been trying to. This is not a compliance issue, this is an opportunity. It’s a glimpse into the future. Coming to 3% gives men a chance to get the inside running on what the future looks like. And to play a part in it.
And the future of course isn’t just a female narrative. It’s an inclusive and diverse future. The recent census data showed the typical Australian family is becoming so hard to find it’s bordering on a myth or at least an endangered species.
Last week, Big W’s new ad went to air featuring an Asian Australian as its protagonist, and I sat up and took notice. Such is the rarity of things like that.
So, finally I come back to where I started? Why are we bringing the event to Australia? Why does B&T and the Misfits care? When Dan Uglow and I took over running this business nearly five years ago now, we saw the polar caps of publishing melting. In fact, we were under water.
We realised the old way of doing things was over. Sadly we’re probably not visionary enough to claim to have just jumped on an opportunity, we had a burning platform to get off of.
We realised, having a community media asset didn’t mean you could just sit on the sidelines and hang shit on everybody. We realised we had to become part of the community not just comment on it.
And for us, the first thing we did, and most of you have heard me say this ad nauseam, is we said we wanted to be the industry’s friend. We wanted to face the challenges together and work with you as a team. Pretty quickly, gender and diversity crystallised as two of the nettles the industry needed to grasp.
There’s no question The Misfits will take a hit on 3% this year, but that’s okay. We’re in it for the long haul and we want to be at the centre of the transformation that’s coming in years to come.
And that’s why I’m writing here: because we want your help to get this message out there. This is an opportunity. And we’re here to help you too.
So men, if you’re feeling this is a conference where you’ll be tarred and feathered, nothing could be further from the truth. You always have been crucial to the solution. You’ve always been crucial to the future. This isn’t about inclusivity and your exclusion, it’s about bringing everybody together. So please, buy your tickets today!