As 3% Conference readies to tap into women’s anger, its founder works to extend its reach
The power of women’s anger will be a central theme when the 3% Conference 2018 kicks off on 8 November. Behind the scenes, its team has been working to open up the program far beyond its US location.
Kat Gordon addresses last year's delegation / Bronac McNeill
Kat Gordon, founder of creative diversity organization The 3% Movement, is unsure what the mood will be like among delegates when the seventh annual 3% Conference begins tomorrow. The polls for the US midterm elections had just opened when she spoke to The Drum and the outcome of the vote — an unofficial referendum of the Trump presidency — is far from clear.
Gordon believes a Democratic comeback in the House and the Senate may spark optimism in women and minorities who hope the notion of inclusion will be placed back on the political roadmap. Conversely, she imagines a Republican win will further ignite the anger that has been crackling among these groups throughout the year.
“I have no idea what the temperature in the venue is going to be around this,” she said. “The 3% Movement is all about building bridges and the [current] administration is all about building walls.”
Still, anger — whether it be at the system, at industry injustices, or at specific agency HR practices — has a place at the marketing conference, which is making its Chicago debut. Gordon reports that in the first full year since the #MeToo movement emboldened generations of women to report cases of sexual harassment and abuse, emotions of rage and frustration have bubbled to the surface of the female workforce.
This year’s conference will address how to put these feelings to good use.
“We criminalize anger as an emotion for women to feel and bring into the workplace,” she explained. “But, actually, being in touch with your frustration and anger is a form of self-expression and self-care and if we want creative environments where people are ... in touch with all of their feelings, we have to sanction anger for women.
“It doesn’t mean women should be going around breaking walls, but we should allow them to feel frustrated, to state their frustration, and to be heard. That is the central theme of the conference this year.”
The schedule will also mirror the movement’s efforts to help people look beyond gender when exploring diversity: other panels will discuss disability and neurodiversity, for instance, while new research from 3% and VMLY&R on the topic of parenthood in advertising will be published and discussed.
And Gordon’s ongoing crusade to get more men attending appears to finally be paying dividends. Women still dominate the speaker list, but the founder is confident that more men than ever will be listening, thanks in part to the vocal support of big network agencies.
Publicis, the holding company that famously did not attend Cannes Lions this year, has promised to send 250 people to Navy Pier in Chicago. And, three years since 3% keynote speaker Cindy Gallop publicly called out Leo Burnett for hiring an all-white, male leadership team, the agency has committed to sending 75 delegates — including its entire leadership team — and livestreaming the program to all of its employees around the world.
For Gordon, getting the messages out beyond the conference hall floor has been a priority this year. The solution is ‘Conference in a Box’ — online access to films of conference sessions, deep dives into key themes, blogs, and discussion guides.
“This way, when the event wraps, agencies can host gatherings of leaders and employees to have these discussions from within their own walls,” Gordon explained.
This ‘mobile conference’ will be made freely available to advertising schools across the globe as part of 3%’s mission to “educate the educators.”
“We were hearing that a lot of ad programs are being taught by people who have been out of the industry for a while, so they're not as aware that the move for inclusive cultures is taking root,” said Gordon. “We feel a big part of our brand and responsibility is ... to make sure [program leaders] are aware of best-in-class thinking around creative cultures and use these materials in their classroom.”
Further ahead — and further abroad — Gordon believes the 3% Conference’s expansion will come via well-established conferences in markets outside the US. Rather than organizing standalone events across the globe, she envisages “plugging” the program into existing events to reach the widest range of marketing professionals at a lower cost.
“We are open to so many possibilities,” she said. “We just need partners to open doors for us.”