Discomfort, Privilege and Unconscious Bias: Just a few highlights from The 3% Conference

Since the inception of the 3% Conference, the number of female creative directors has risen from 3% to 29%. Years ago, Kat Gordon, Founder of The 3% Conference, saw a problem. Instead of doing nothing, she said something and, more importantly, did something and, in doing so, created a movement. This movement has inspired companies to change the way they hire, promote and value women in the industry.

The theme at this year’s conference was Beyond Gender. Topics went deeper than just discussing women, but rather touched on the diversity of the men and women that we hire. Study after study shows the wonderful amount of work and money that is produced and gained from having diverse teams.

3 Percent Conference

Day one of the conference kicked off with Luvvie Ajayi, New York Times best-selling author of I’m Judging You, discussing privilege. She talked about how it isn’t just about hiring a diverse group of people, but about encouraging that diverse group to speak and participate. Luvvie took the audience through a privilege exercise, which was an extremely powerful way to kick off the conference. The exercise was both fascinating and thought provoking and, while everyone had different approaches to the questions asked, one single theme ran throughout: everyone was kicking some serious ass.

Luvvie’s exercise was just the beginning, but it certainly started the dialogue and allowed people to start feeling uncomfortable – the discomfort was not unwelcome though. It was necessary. In order to achieve change in this industry, we need people to start to feel uncomfortable.

Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director of J. Walter Thompson, continued this conversation of discomfort by assuming things about people. He said, “The second you start to assume is when your unconscious bias comes out.” Torsten encouraged the audience to ask questions because “asking challenges you to learn about yourself, about other people and their experiences.” He believes that in order to continue to be creative, we need to be vulnerable with one another. Asking questions helps us get there by building trust. Stating clear intentions can enable us to ask those tough questions, without crossing a line.

This years’ 3% Conference was an incredibly powerful, eye-opening, uncomfortable event that will continue the important conversation of diversity in our agency. If we focus on our agency, we will be able to start to improve the industry. Bottom line: we have a lot of work to do.