The 3% Conference: A Decade of Difference

By : Cathryn Walker


The first week of November marked the tenth anniversary of the 3 Percent Conference, an annual event that supports the 3% Movement’s mission to increase the representation of women in the executive ranks of creative agencies. Since its formation, the organization has helped grow the percentage of female creative directors from 3 to 11 percent in just a few years. With this year’s two-day conference themed as “A Decade of Difference,” a phenomenal community of female leaders and changemakers converged to share the progress that has been made across various industries over the last ten years, the lessons they have learned along the way, and the outlook for a more progressive future.

“Our community deserves a better future, and we can’t reach it without recognizing systems of oppression ingrained in the business of creativity,” said Katherine Gordon, CEO and Founder of the 3% Movement. “We’ll explore what we need to do to keep growing our movement, address intersectional and systemic issues, and keep the momentum and enthusiasm alive. 3% has always been—and will always be—a community-fueled movement.”

In case you were unable to attend the conference in Atlanta or have not had the chance to watch the powerful online seminars, here are three key takeaways that have us excited for a diverse and inclusive future in the creative industry.

Diversity is in the details

Media representation affects our perception of ourselves and others, ultimately shaping the world we live in. By defining what is attractive and acceptable, the ways in which the media portrays people is important to consider when developing ad campaigns and creating a culture of inclusivity rather than exclusivity. It is crucial to subvert stereotypes surrounding minority groups and represent different types of people from all walks of life. Actively focusing on details within a campaign or inside the workplace draws attention to who and what we value in society, and enables us to challenge negative perceptions of minority groups. Fostering diversity around even the most seemingly minute details, such as paid company holidays or office temperature, will help break longstanding signals of who matters and who doesn’t, resulting in cultural transformation.

Mindful mentorship

Job discrimination is still a reality for many, as women continue to be undervalued and confined to positions associated with their perceived gender. Sexist behavior persists in the workplace through microaggressions, or subtle and/or indirect discrimination. For those who find success in spite of these obstacles, many can find themselves faced with another hurdle—imposter syndrome, which, when loosely defined, is when someone doubts their abilities and feels fraudulent, even if they have had accomplishments. By joining together to form a support system that allows experienced women to mentor newer employees and build a community that empowers each other, in addition to recognizing and calling out inappropriate and discriminatory behavior, women and allies can be a force of positive change.


There has been a lot of progress made in recent decades, as more and more companies are beginning to focus on the needs of a previously untapped consumer base—women, who make up just over 50% of the U.S. population and nearly half of the world’s population. Female consumers have been abandoning brands that undervalue and treat women badly, an increasing trend as people recognize the importance of reframing portrayals in advertising to be more representative and actually fulfilling consumers’ needs. Although progress has been made in opening the doors to inclusivity and diversity, there is still a long way to go in shifting the cultural narrative to fixing the problematic “-isms” (such as sexism, racism, or ableism) rather than trying to “fix” those minority groups. Each person has the ability to make a difference for the future, no matter how small or how large. By speaking truth to power, we can speak power to potential and open the doors to a better future for everyone.