The 3% Conference: Going Beyond Gender

Nov 01, 2017


 The 3% Conference is a business event about the importance of diversity to creativity. 


True to the theme “Beyond Gender,” the 3% Conference took aim at the many diversity issues beyond female leadership this year. In its 6th year, speakers tackled tough topics on privilege, race, inclusion, harassment, community, parenthood and more.

Kicking things off, Luvvie Ajayi led an on-stage privilege walk with the help of audience members. The experiment involved individuals taking steps forward or backward in answer to various questions like: “Did you always assume you’d go to college?” or “Have you ever felt vulnerable because of your gender?” The result was a powerful and physical picture of the privilege disparity.


Luvvie 3percent quote


One of the participants Derek Walker said, “We tend to talk about [diversity] like we’re one big group. There’s a hierarchy to diversity […] In this diversity struggle, we’re not moving as a group. We should be, but we’re not.” The exercise was an important reminder that the mission wasn’t just about raising up a single group, but about creating bigger waves of change that enable employees of all backgrounds and identities to thrive.


Making the business case

This year the conference doubled down on driving home the message of diversity not just as an HR challenge, but a critical issue of companies everywhere. Amber Guild and Kathleen Diamantakis presented the businesses case, looking at how diversity initiatives can impact work and the bottom line. They presented a range of findings, with examples from leading brands like Hewlett-Packard and General Mills, underscoring how diversity and inclusion are driving positive results in the marketplace.

In Carter Murray’s session, “How Diversity Impacts Great Leadership,” he argued that having different opinions leads to smarter decisions. “If you surround yourself with people like you, you’re only speaking to yourself,” he said. And the real onus of change lies within company leadership he stressed.

Sabrina Siddiqui, Political Reporter at The Guardian said, “It’s the responsibility of any workplace to listen to you, and accept you.” To address ongoing diversity issues, she pressed for civic engagement as the solution. “It’s not enough to have just one women’s march. Everyone needs to learn and get involved in the issues they care about.”




We can do more

In “Covering,” the panel discussed covering as an often underestimated issue. Covering refers to not just hiding or veiling your appearance, but in distancing oneself in multiple ways in order to avoid being associated with a stigmatized group. “We don’t talk about covering. But when you lack a sense of belonging, it causes you to want to leave,” said Jennifer Brown, CEO, Jennifer Brown Consulting. And that’s an issue companies need to pay attention to she stressed.

“When you start cutting and editing yourself because you’re led to believe that what you have to bring of your culture is not valuable, the company loses out on an important piece of you – your insights, your ideas, your perspective,” said Noni Allwood, Principal, Noni Allwood & Associates.




Diversity drives innovation and raises the bar. In the session, “Where the Money is,” Cindy Gallop spoke about how diversity drives infinitely better business, but “our industry still isn’t putting its money where its mouth is.” 

Although the number of female Creative Directors has risen from 3%, the battle for true gender parity continues. In the panel, “Where We Stand: New Insight Into Our Industry,” The 3% Movement’s Kat Gordon, Founder, and Vanessa Reid, Director of Marketing and New Business Strategy, discussed the imperative for every agency to do a wage audit. “You cannot claim to value people equally and pay them unequally,” Kate said.

There are many ways to tackle the diversity problem. One way Y&R is amplifying diversity is by starting a career reboot program, PowerOn, that gives parents and caregivers who left work to focus on family the training necessary to re-enter the work place. Programs like this help us, as an industry, diversify talent across the board. 

All in all, to be effective, networks need to go beyond gender – all employees need to feel represented, heard and supported. 




Y&R is a proud sponsor of the 3% Conference.