Just back from the 5th annual 3% Conference – a festival championing female talent and leadership – Bec Brideson shares her insights from the event.
The 3% Conference was founded by Kat Gordon, a creative who started her own agency, and later began the 3% Conference back in 2011. She’s an infectiously positive and productive woman who is educating the industry as well as inspiring people all around her to acknowledge the power of improving gender balance in agencies (at senior and exec level especially) and why diversity is so good for business.
On the eve of the conference, I participated in a Google HQ panel discussion about diversity in the workplace. Alongside three female creative directors from around the globe, we discussed the topic of women as creatives, quotas and the future for women in the business.
Do we need to put more female seats around the boardroom table, for exec roles and in the creative department? Yes.
Do we need to introduce quotas? Yes, because we will reach better results for business and brand when we understand the benefits of female-lensed thinking. From both a marketing and an organisational perspective, we need teams reflecting the consumer and giving business better outcomes.
We are still viewing the market through an old lens, with old tools not providing the clarity nor the opportunity to better leverage the enormous, financially rich female segment.
Long story short, it’s time to see gender-balance addressed for the reason women are the key decision-makers. The more diverse opinions and perspectives we bring to the solutions table, the faster it will help us realise the opportunity with this market.
My conference take-aways:
BE THE CHANGE: The highlight in the program was without doubt a perspicacious 11-year-old girl named Marley Dias whose mother challenged her thinking after hearing her daughter’s disappointment with her reading materials at school. Observing the narratives were all about white boys and their dogs, her mother asked her: “What are you going to do about it?”
And thus the theme of the conference was born.
To see what this amazing girl did, check out #blackgirlmagic and #1000BlackGirlBooks. A little reminder for anyone in our industry who finds themselves stopped in their tracks by ‘old school’ or ‘male-lensed’ unconscious-bias. This is the wake up call to ask yourself that same question Marley’s mum asked her. And when the answer dawns, start stock-piling your gems of brilliance so they become the rocks that you need to throw at the window panes of the establishment and begin to unleash your new perspectives and intelligent thinking to correct the bias and #changetheratio
DO GOOD WITH YOUR POWER: Madonna Badger had the audience leaning right in as she shared her story of life in advertising and what really matters. She confessed that she thought advertising was everything until she had children (haven’t parents all been there?) and how enriched and enlightened children made her life.
That is, until tragedy struck and she lost her three girls and her parents in a house fire and for the next 12 months wished she’d died with them. There wasn’t a person who could not palpably feel her pain and anguish. She brought the audience on the trek through her determination to turn her ‘life in advertising’ into something that had a legacy and a reason.
Having worked on some of the most famous Calvin Klein campaigns, she herself was a recovering traditionalist of ad-land cliches and perpetuation of stereotypes. But no more. Her viral piece #womennotobjects that created waves at Cannes Lions this year was her magnum opus and sends a clear message to the world. Now is the time to rethink and relearn new ways to portray women and men and think in a way that helps us serve the world to be a better place for both genders. Read more on her next mission to ban ads from Cannes that objectify women here.
MANBASSADORS: Yes, men are more than welcome at The 3% Conference and have so much to learn from this event. Michael Roth, IPG Chairman makes a point of turning up and endorsing it. This year John Kovacevich was a session speaker representing the 97% Conference, a spoof on the 3%, that he started as an ironic joke on Twitter and actually in support of women, whilst he was getting his daughter to sleep one night. He made headlines in Adweek with his outrageous tweets such as:
He confessed that he started to worry that the humour had gone too far and was concerned some people were actually taking it seriously. In a clever analogy to the jester in a Kings court, he shared that he began to see his role as talking about the ridiculously hard stuff (being fair to female creatives) as his duty to convince those ‘in rule’ that it is time we see just how old world the lack of gender balance has become. #femalelens
#CHANGETHERATIO: The conference also shared the research piece sponsored by the 4A’s in the US “Elephant on Madison Ave” with a number of horrifying stats including “54% of women have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances in their career”, which you can read more of here.
And finally Cindy Gallop delivered the inspiring closing keynote and beseeched the women who are not being heard to do something about it. Her ten pointers are a must read here.
Having started my own agency Venus Comms 12 years ago, I am all about starting a model that reflects your own values AND meets the needs of the market. Venus has been going for over a decade and seen many iterations of agency size and scope. When I started the agency there were maybe 10 agencies globally, all specialising in women in some form or another. And now there are more than 80 agencies trying with different degrees of size and scale to fill a gap in a market that is worth a massive $28 trillion.
In 2015, so frustrated by the lack of innovation and understanding around the female economy, I spoke about women and the industry in a keynote at Cannes. I’ve been one of the few Australian agencies to differentiate and innovate, and I’ve followed the money i.e. the female audience. I’ve had a traditional industry dismiss me as a ‘pink it and shrink it’ solution, and been home to many folk who simply want to get on with the job without the gender politics. I’ve started from nothing and turned it into a fringe dwelling empire. For anyone out there who knows there is a better way to reach the female audience; there is, you can, and it will.
Last year it became apparent this was bigger than marketing-to-women and that the business opportunity was even greater for brands. I’ve spent the year writing a book, teaching my IP and outsourcing myself as a consultant to clients who know that the current agency model has its limitations and who feel frustrated by not getting the results they deserve. I’m working with those who can see that the industry has not kept up with the pace of change that women are making. Today I’m surrounded by those who want to be enlightened, or are already au fait, with females being the dominant consumer.
With the new generation of women graduating from university at 60% of the talent pool market conditions mean that there are many qualified people around who are ready to change the current paradigms and push the boundaries that were historically received from generations of business(men) gone by. Be it starting their own businesses, or challenging the methodologies developed in bygone eras, it’s an exciting time to be innovating if your audience is female.
A week after the conference, Fifth Avenue is filled with Americans protesting Trump. They are facing so much change with a new and contentious leader. It’s the perfect chance to ask yourself, like all these people at the 3% Conference did – what are you going to do about changing the world you live in?
Now more than ever is the need to put your brain in gear, your heart in your hand, your fear to the side and use both arms to embrace the possibility of changing the world always one smart step ahead of the old-world, unconsciously-biased status-quo that’s dragging us back.
Bec Brideson is a Creative Director with 24 years experience in the marcomms industry. Her passion is solving business problems and creating solutions that resonates with the female consumer. becbrideson.com
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