The 3% Conference: Feminism is not a dirty word!

Having this week attended the Three Percent Conference, Marianne Stefanowicz, Worldwide PR and communications director for TBWA Worldwide - and newly anointed feminist - returns with her response to the two day discussion over the role of women within the marketing industry.

The Three Per Cent Conference, which could now technically be renamed the 11 Per Cent Conference, celebrates and fights for more women in creative and leadership positions amidst the advertising community. Agency folks, filmmakers, authors, coaches and more came together for two days in San Francisco this week, with the aim of inspiring, motivating and (most importantly) activating the community towards driving change and increasing the number of women in senior roles.

The message that sounded the loudest, perhaps unexpectedly at a women’s oriented conference, was the subject of men. Too many people – male and female – think this is not an issue that concerns men. And many women don’t see men as belonging in the conversation, or as part of the solution. ‘Early adopters’ to a ‘feminist’ way of thinking are the men who have working spouses or siblings and those who have daughters, who begin to recognize that they want the women they respect and love to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace. This is a start, but it’s 2014 and frankly, to still be having conversations around equality between men and women seems a little passé. We need to work in partnership to make a dent and start moving towards greater equality. There were not enough men at the Three Per Cent Conference and those that were there got applauded for joining in, not vilified.

In an idealistic world, skill trumps gender – we hire the best people for the job irrespective of gender, race, sexuality. We recognize there is a scarcity of senior female talent and our focus has to be finding, nurturing and growing talent from the ground up. Helping them to be the best they can be in their field through training, mentoring and investing in their professional development. People are crying out for mentors and sponsors. It’s not an either/or situation. A mentor is someone you can learn from, a sponsor is someone that champions you through your career. The concept of a sponsor is new to me. I want to find one and I want to be one.

Even by the end of the first keynote I began to recognize that Feminism is not a dirty word. It is not something – men or women – should shy away from or be embarrassed by. It is something that we strong, independent, smart, career driven women can and should own. Maybe it is the Brit in me that winced a little before at being labeled a feminist, but the few days I spent surrounded by smart people with interesting stories and points of view, has made me much more comfortable with the term.

As Cindy Gallop pointed out in her closing remarks, now we need to turn the words into action and communicate our beliefs through actually making the changes we want to see. What can you do in your organization?

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