TPN at the 3% Conference 2014

Did you know that though women constitute 73% of consumer purchasing power and control $20 trillion of the world’s annual consumer spending, women make up only a small percentage of the Creative Directors in advertising? The 3% Conference, whose mission is to “build the business case for diversity by championing female creative talent and leadership by offering content, community and professional development,” is taking this disconnect head-on. The premise behind this conference began when founder Kat Gordan discovered that at the time, women made up only 3% of Creative Directors in advertising.

This number comes from a 2008 dissertation by Kasey Windels, then a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. In “Proportional Representation and Regulatory Focus: The Case for Cohorts among Female Creatives” and her subsequent conference paper, “An Exploration into the Representation of Female Creatives in Today’s Advertising Agencies,” Ms. Windels painstakingly checked the gender of award winners in the 1984, 1994 and 2004 Advertising Annuals of Communications Arts. She found just 3.6% of Creative Directors were female.

Nine years after the initial study, the 3% Conference decided to take a look at the 2013 Communications Arts Advertising issue and found that the percentage of women Creative Directors had increased to 11.5%, a increase of 319%. According to the report, the increase could possibly be attributed to more women CDs entering the competition and to an increased awareness of the women-centric marketplace, making judges more likely to award work with a female sensibility, though it can not be confirmed. The report also stresses that more formal measurements are not currently available because the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not measure Creative Director as a job title, meaning essentially the industry doesn’t have any other way of determining a benchmark and agencies must be aware of their own stats.

All that to say, the 3% Conference is about empowering women creatives to take leadership roles, championing the women creatives around them and being cognizant that the work we’re producing presents women in a truthful, respectful manner. This year, TPN sent Sr. Creative Director Kaytee Miller, Art Director Amanda Elsbree and myself to represent at this conference. After two days of hearing amazing speakers and panels in addition to networking with agencies from all over the country, my co-workers and I left the conference so inspired and motivated. Here are a few of the highlights of the top speakers (for more in-depth coverage of the conference sessions, go to to check out their blog and videos).

The Essence of the Modern Leader is More Feminine

John Gerzema, social strategist and author, argued just that during his presentation: “64,000 People Can’t be Wrong” at the 3% Conference. In his book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, he introduces the idea of a new era of leadership heavily based on feminist values.  He obtained a vast amount of data, (both qualitative and quantitative), through 64,000 interviews he conducted with people from different communities and organizational structures all over the world, in which he found that we’re in a new world with many old minds. The common thread in his research was that the essence of a modern leader is more feminine than masculine. In fact, Gerzema went on to state, “Feminist values are the operating system of the 21st century.” What exactly are feminist values?

  • Connectedness
  • Patience
  • Empathy (A TPN value!)
  • Candor (Vulnerability as Strength)

But what does this mean? In essence, Gerzema, surmises that this new era of leadership capitalizes on qualities like flexibility, creativity, morality, loyalty, collaboration, passion, happiness, etc. And though these are traditionally viewed as feminine, they are first and foremost human, that each of us possess regardless of gender. Ultimately, these qualities are something to celebrate and embrace as our world is shifting and societies become less and less rigid.

Play BIG

As the keynote speaker, Tara Mohr gave an incredible presentation related to her book Play Big. When this career and life coach surveyed women about what was holding them back in their overall happiness, the overwhelming response to her multiple choice question was playing it small. By playing it small, women are essentially copping out on their dreams and in order to play big, women have to make a shift by being more loyal to their dreams than to their fears.

Mohr stressed that to make that change, women have to “unhook” from praise and criticism and avoid that hook to begin with. When we’re hooked, women tend to avoid controversy and innovation. As such, women need to:

  • Flip the feedback. Listen with curiosity and determine how you can use their feedback to grow your relationships with this person  whether it’s a boss, a client, or a spouse.
  • Understand that all substantive work brings criticism. Remember that we aren’t being graded and that all meaningful work will be criticized in our workplace and that isn’t personal.
  • Look inward and find the matchup. Evaluate the criticism. And find out why it bothers and where that fear originates.
  • Work on your inner mentor. Use that inner voice to bolster your confidence and champion on your outer voice, so your opinion, beliefs and position can be heard.

Only then, does a sense of freedom and opportunity come once one is no longer shackled to the need for praise and approval.


As the first speaker of Day 2, Todd Henry immediately grabbed the conference’s attention with this remark. What is the most expensive land in the world? Is it the Middle East oil fields? No. Is it the diamond mines in Africa? No. It’s the graveyard, where all the unexplored ideas, innovations and creative thoughts that never came to fruition are buried. That is why we should all strive to Die Empty, leaving our best work on the table every day, because we’re not guaranteed an infinite tomorrows. In his talk, Henry identified what we need to do as creative problem solvers to stay productive, focused and engaged. MEDIOCRITY is the enemy. Because being prolific, brilliant and healthy is good for business, and it’s good for us. And that there really isn’t a worklife balance but that we have to find rhythm through (staying FRESH):

  1. Focus – define the work and the attention needed
  2. Relationships – we need people to challenge us
  3. Energy – bring the emotional labor to your work, prune as needed
  4. Stimuli – define your stimulus list and understand what drives you
  5. Hours – build time in for unnecessary creating

Mediocrity doesn’t just happen, but is chosen over time. So don’t die with your best work inside you. Push it all out and die with every idea out there. And remember, cover bands don’t change the world.

Make 2015 a Year of Change

Cindy Gallop, Founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld, invigorated the closing talk with these actions to take, and charged us each with making 2015 not the 2015 we expect it to be.

  • Say what you really think. Do it and don’t hold back. If nobody speaks up, then nothing changes. You’re at the table for a reason. Don’t deprive the work by waiting for validation. Don’t hold back out of fear because more than likely, what we fear will not happen. So don’t be incapacitated by an illusion.
  • Communication through demonstration. Do diversity. She gave this example. When asked to be the guest editor for The Drum’s October issue, Gallop agreed with three conditions. She insisted on being paid, she insisted that the issue be about “New Creativity,” and lastly, all the content had to by and about women, without marketing it as a special women’s issue.
  • Light bulb it up. Make sure to bring attention when women are bring positive results in your agency and when you notice a lack of women representation.