Exceptional Women of the World: The 3% Conference reading list

3% Conference founder, Kat Gordon, at opening day of the 2016 conference in NYC / Bronac McNeill

For almost two years, we have had the opportunity to spend time with some of the industry’s top female leaders in our Exceptional Women of the World podcast — a show that highlights the lives, work, achievements and perspectives of women in the industry.

The show itself is in more of an “audio magazine” format, where we break topics into sections that end up being interesting, provocative and sometimes funny conversations about the journey in this industry.

One of the segments of our Exceptional Women of the World podcast is known as the “must list.” In this part of the show, we ask our guests to weigh in on “must dos”, “must learns”, “must experience” and, finally, “must read”.

As we prepare for the 3% Conference in New York next week, we took a look back at the “must read” part of the show and, specifically, pulled out the responses from some past 3% Conference speakers and attendees.

In a way, it’s a reading list of sorts. But, in the spirit of the show, and the 3% Movement itself, there is some profound thought and important influence beyond the pages.

Lynn Power, chief executive officer, J. Walter Thompson New York

A fan of Stephen King, Power recommends Night Shift, the collection of short stories published in 1978.

“[It] opened up my imagination,” she says.

After sharing the book with her teenage daughter, a new King fan was made.

“She had that same [reaction].”

Outside of King, Power is a “voracious reader” who likes fiction and especially crime novels — including a Swedish title she is currently digging into.

Jamie Gutfreund, global chief marketing officer, Wunderman

When is a last-minute book report analagous to life?

As Gutfreund explains it, it makes a lot of sense, especially in the context of the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

The story is of Lamott's brother waiting until the last minute to finish a book report, papers and books were strewn about. The topic? Migratory patterns of North American birds. Fearing that the morass would be overwhelming, Lamott's father came over to his son, explaining that the best way to tackle the project was "Bird by bird, my son. Birf by bird."

"It's a lesson in life in how you can only do one thing at a time," Gutfreund says. "It's incredibly helpful and insightful."

Val DiFebo, chief executive officer, Deutsch New York

The “must read” is the New York Times Book Review.

“I like to see what people all over the country are reading,” she says. “I think it's interesting to see where people's heads are. It gives you a little bit of a cultural life touch point.”

Further, DiFebo very much likes the “who knew?” kinds of stories — those that are surprising, especially non-fiction, but also important topics that are sometimes underrepresented.

Libby Brockoff, chief executive officer, Odysseus Arms, San Francisco

Given to her by her advertising professor at the University of Delaware, Ray Nichols, and cited as one of Alex Bogusky’s inspirational guides, The Universal Traveler by Don Koberg tops her list.

“It just has the worst graphics. It's a paperback book and if you saw it in a bookshop you would walk right past it and not think that there was anything useful in it,” she says. “So many other people have actually talked about this book at TED Talks and IDEO has mentioned it as an influence.”

Danielle Trivisonno Hawley, chief creative officer, Possible Seattle

Hawley started a two-person book club with her husband. Though now, with kids and travel, she finds getting time to read is challenging. That said, she says The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is a must read.

Outside of that book, you will likely find Hawley digging into to one specific type of read.

“I absolutely love fiction,” she says. “I think that the ability to conjure stories that are that are not there, recounting something, is beautiful and magical. Conjuring something that didn't exist before and creating an entirely new world that people didn't know about is fascinating to me.”

Margaret Keene, executive creative director, MullenLowe Los Angeles

To Keene, it all starts and ends with the book that sits in the bathroom once a day.

“I’m just trying to get through a Vanity Fair,” she jokes.

Though she doesn’t specify more material, the conversation veers into a highly-entertaining back and forth about a most popular book during her childhood, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

“Can you imagine going through puberty and having that be on the best seller [list]?” she laments.

Kate Jeffers, partner, owner, Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco

Jeffers cuts a wide swath in her reading. From pulpy to differing opinions, she sees great opportunity to learn interesting things about the world and humanity.

But, one book stands out, Under the Banner of Heaven by an author she very much likes, John Krakauer.

“[It’s a] really interesting overview of the roots of Mormon faith and then Mormon extremism — it’s really fascinating. It's worth reading [and] I think the way he digs in is really, really cool,” she says.

Pam Fujimoto, executive creative director, Wongdoody, Los Angeles

On the business/creative side of the equation, Fujimoto recommends Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, the founder of Behance.

“[I] think that one is so great for strategies for creative to actually get stuff done,” she notes. “I think that a lot of us creatives — we have a lot of ideas and we want to do a lot of things and we don't do most of them. And it's not because we can't and because we don't — we don't know the discipline and skills and strategies to be able to do it.”

On the other side of the spectrum, she highly recommends The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by legendary Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

“It's a bizarre trip and I like it for the exact opposite reason that I like Belsky’s book. That book is entirely practical in terms of life work strategies and this book is like a David Lynch film in a book,” she says

Jean Freeman, owner, chief operating officer, Zambezi, Los Angeles

Freeman believes very much in what Ben Horowitz preaches in The Hard Thing About Hard Things. An entrepreneur in her own right, she feels that he gets to the nitty-gritty — the real stuff people need to learn to be successful.

“This is a book I suggest anyone who's thinking about starting a business or taking over a business,” she says. “Whereas a lot of business books can be very theoretical. This has a lot of practical applications.”

Dianne Wilkins, chief executive officer, Critical Mass, Calgary

To Wilkins, it’s very simple: just read.

A fan of fiction, she believes that reading can unlock influence both in and out of work that any manner of books can provide.

“I really am a big believer in the whole person and not just the business persona,” she says. “Whatever your career is you need inspiration from outside. You need people from outside, you need your coworkers to have lives outside right because one dimension is never good enough.”

Margaret Johnson, partner, executive creative director, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

To Johnson, a weekend isn’t complete without a leisurely read through the Sunday New York Times. But, it has to be the paper itself, in its original, intended form.

“Spend a good two hours poring over it get into the New York Times magazine read it cover to cover,” she advises. “[Take] that time to drink coffee and lounge and not be distracted by other things like your phone or chores or running errands or all the stuff that we all do on weekends. It’s just nice to take that two hours and really immerse yourself in something that is incredibly interesting and keeps you up to date on what's happening in the world.”

Mira Kaddoura, co-founder, executive creative director, Red & Co., Portland

A voracious reader, Kaddoura admits she was reading a bit more than usual last year.

“I was pregnant and reading a ton,” she says. “I wasn’t doing much else [than] growing babies and reading.”

Her list is wide-ranging and includes an interesting combination of titles and authors, from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (a native of Lebanon like Kaddoura herself) to The Velveteen Rabbit and the works of Kalki Krishnamurthy and Robert Fisk.

Kat Gordon, founder, 3% Conference and 3% Movement

To Gordon, in our conversation last year, she pointed to a book that many have read and evangelized: Originals by Adam Grant, a look at how people can champion ideas and how leaders can get out of their own heads.

In reading the book, she made it a point to reach out to Grant, a frequent collaborator with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and asked him to be a speaker at the conference.

“The reason this book appeals to me — not only because I live in Silicon Valley and I have worked with a lot of startups — but when he talks about the creative process he says that if people there are going to be evaluating creative ideas spend 15 minutes before that process generating their own ideas on the same problem that the results end up being much better,” she explains. “There's a lot of things in this book that are interesting and [it] is just filled with so many interesting pieces of research and takeaways and anecdotes.”

Wunderman proudly supports The Drum’s 3% Conference coverage. We believe true diversity does not check boxes, it checks itself. http://wunderman.com/

Doug Zanger

Doug Zanger is the Americas editor for The Drum. He leads the Americas editorial team’s content activity in the growing region. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is committed to sharing the most meaningful stories that benefit the global industry and its people. A Minnesota native, Zanger has covered a wide range of brands, issues and personalities, including Aloe Blacc, Seu Jorge, Wendy Clark, Susan Credle, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and more. Fiercely dedicated to diversity, equality and talent, he has interviewed several women in leadership roles through his Exceptional Women of the World podcast.

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