Equality in Our Industry: The Answer is a Question

This was the first year I had the privilege of attending the 3% Conference. The conference name itself comes from a 2008 statistic that only 3% of creative directors in advertising were women – the movement champions diversity in advertising, this year going “beyond gender.” The idea that people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, educational and cultural backgrounds can make a profound impact was paramount in all sessions.

A constant theme throughout the two days of the conference was the notion of asking questions. Torsten Gross, Executive Planning Director at JWT talked about how asking questions and abandoning shame is imperative to breaking through unconscious bias. As someone with a visible physical disability, he recounted a job interview for a position that he didn’t get. Later on, he found out that the hiring manager was afraid that, as a planner, he would need to travel a lot for work and not be able to. With the fear and discomfort of asking these tough questions, comes a ton of missed opportunities to build different perspectives in the workplace.

The idea of asking questions was brought up again, but this time, in the context of family leave and pausing one’s career to focus on starting a family. 6 1% percent of millennials feel forced to pause their careers to have families. Many agencies don’t have flexible policies in place to support working moms beyond maternity leave, putting stress on the parent to negotiate on a case by case basis. Agencies need to let their employees know that they have permission to ask, and as employees, we need to talk openly to our HR departments about these topics.

Each one of us has to be accountable for educating our selves and each other. As agencies, we need diversity of thought for innovation. When we become part of the conversation, and ask these questions that make us uncomfortable, we open the door to endless possibilities.