You Cannot Be What You Cannot See

As the mother of two girls, this phrase struck a chord when I first heard it in the documentary Miss Representation, and then again when I heard director Jennifer Siebel Newsom speak at the first 3% Conference. The energy at the first event was palpable, and I came away determined to make a difference. 

Championing female creative leadership in an industry historically dominated by White men is no small task. As the conference enters its fourth year, I’m eager to see how far the needle has shifted. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mother and as, dare I say it, a seasoned professional, it’s that talk only goes so far. My kids learn more from how I live than what I say. We are at a point in the industry when we—both men and women—should be asking ourselves, “Why are we still talking about this?” 

While this is not my first time attending the 3% Conference, it is my first time attending as a representative of POSSIBLE. I spoke with our attendees to discover why the conference and its cause are meaningful to them and the work they do. Below is an excerpt. All told, we are a group of 18 from six different offices from across the US all the way to London. While we may not live in a world where equality is a given, we are moving ever forward, with some of my own colleagues leading the charge.

JESSI BROWN | SENIOR WRITER, SEATTLE

The 3% Conference helps us all stay accountable for changing the ratio as we bring in new talent and assemble our teams. And that’s vital if we want our work to work, because when we have a diversity of perspectives and experience, we can dive more deeply into the human experience and amplify voices that often go unheard. It keeps us from falling back on clichés and stereotypes, so that our audience feels respected and understood.

I want to help steer our industry away from bikini-clad supermodels fellating cheeseburgers and toward stories that reflect the richness of real life and the progress we’ve made as a society (along with the leaps we still need to make). That can feel overwhelming sometimes, but seeing so many brilliant, like-minded women coming together around 3% shows me that it can be done.

ASHLEY BALL | CONTENT PRODUCER, SEATTLE

The 3% movement is important for our creative work as an agency for the most obvious reason. We are women. We know women. We can sell to women while doing great work and making a difference at the same time. But it shouldn’t be the 3%. It should be the 50%.

The 3% movement matters to me personally because being raised by a single, immigrant mother I would love to see more diversity of all instances in our industry. We are lucky in Seattle to have many strong, responsible, and kick-ass women in leadership, but we also need more diversity in race, sexual orientation, and class. 

SARA GUIZZO | TALENT ACQUISITION DIRECTOR, SEATTLE

I’m excited about attending the 3% conference this year to raise awareness about POSSIBLE, the work we’re creating with our clients, and to connect with like-minded individuals who are passionate about their work—just as we are. 

As a matchmaker for the agency, I’m interested in learning where individuals want to take their careers and if we might be their next home. Please check out our careers page for opportunities. 

MARTHA HIEFIELD | PRESIDENT, SEATTLE

Diversity is a key ingredient for creativity and how to approach our client’s business challenges in a new way. When we come together from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of thinking—it leads to the best work. I want to see our next generation of creative leaders be men and women, different ethnicities, young and old. I want us to lead by example as an agency and be known as a place that develops our women into leaders.

FEDERICO ABRAHAMS | ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CINCINNATI

The 3% movement is an invitation to change. It represents the power of an idea becoming an ideal and driving change. It represents equality. It leads change. It forms strong leaders to drive that change. It is about having the guts to take the first step and find the means to lead the way.

MARGARET RUSSO | ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CINCINNATI 

We need to check and double-check that our creative work upholds diversity and showcases the myriad sides of womanhood, from the stay-at-home mom running the household to the grad student with a secret LARPing obsession to the middle-aged fly fisher(wo)man. Just raising that question within our work (“Is this characterization of a woman an easy trope? Or is it fresh, modern, and relatable?”) is a positive start that anyone can take. 

If you’re a person (spoiler alert: we all are), then you should support the 3% message: diversity makes for better ideas. And that diversity includes more than 3% of creative directors being female. 

MARGARITA PIZA | USER EXPERIENCE DESIGNER, LOS ANGELES

Innovation comes with disruption. If we want to be an innovative agency, we must embrace change and new paradigms. It is particularly challenging for women to have a voice, not just because it’s a male-driven industry, but because women do not always empower, mentor, and support one another to have an impact in the creative world. The tale of the weak gender is over. We must discuss, share, and push each other to create opportunities and develop more careers.  

RAY PAGE | EVP EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, SEATTLE

The 3% Conference is important to me for many reasons. But in short, I want a more nuanced approach to conversations that shape an internal creative culture and greatly influence the work. Over time, I’ve realized the strength in understanding the difference between having a perspective of what you think you should do versus what is needed. 

And that’s where empathy comes in. You learn to ask and inquire before making statements. You learn to understand how to approach a conversation in a productive way because you understand how the other person communicates. You learn the importance and strength of context. 

LIZZI CLUBB | ART DIRECTOR, LONDON
 
In order to create things that are truly unique and memorable, it's important that everyone feels able to challenge and contribute to ideas, no matter who they are. Being in an office full of strong, talented women and working with female creative directors has given me the confidence I need to come out of my shell and feel in control of my career path.

LAURA WOLF | MARKETING MANAGER, AMERICAS

As a non-creative working in a creative agency, I’m constantly inspired by how much people truly care about breaking down these barriers. Not only in the creative department, but in the bigger picture, where women are mentored and grow into leadership positions. As a woman focused on her career path, this truly resonates with me. It gives me hope that there is not only a place for me at the table, but the support from our leadership. While it doesn’t seem commonplace yet, it should be and we’re working on it. 

Please also check out the 3% Blog to read some takeaways from several of our attendees and a special thanks to Jessi Brown for her bold creative on our 3% ad (above). 

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