“Men, this conference is for you,” declared the opening speaker Wade Davis at this year’s 3% Conference.
What the? That was not the first thing I expected to hear at an annual gathering focused on gender disparity in the field of advertising. I assumed it was primarily for women and I was there to listen from a seat in the back. However, as I looked around the grand ballroom, I saw knowing nods and affirming applause. This conference was for me and I better listen up.
When I was asked to write this article I hesitated. This! I thought. This is what the world needs in 2019. A mansplanation of a women’s conference. But here we are.
This year’s event, which was founded eight years ago by Kat Gordon to shine a light on the fact that only 3% of creative directors were women, was hosted at Navy Pier in Chicago. The venue was built a century ago to support commerce and the exchange of goods. Over the two-day conference, it was a place to support discussion and the exchange of ideas. A man-made structure which evolved to suit the needs of the time made for an appropriate setting.
This year’s theme was “the 29%”, meant to symbolize the conference’s goal of having 29% of their attendees be men. Latest research shows that’s the representation of women creative directors, and they wanted men to experience the exact ratio of their female peers for a couple of days. There was a lot of thought put into this theme, from the diversity of speakers to the 29% of yellow pages in the printed program.