The end of April found me at a gathering of over 400 female creative directors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, advertising executives and entertainment writers, along with some wonderful male allies, in Los Angeles for the 3% Mini-Conference.
If you haven’t heard of the 3% movement, definitely check it out. Why that name? Because just a few years ago only 3% of creative directors and leaders in the advertising and entertainment industries were women, and even fewer were women of color. Thank goodness, that number has started to grow — in no small part because of the efforts of women like Kat Gordon, who started the 3% movement and companion conference.
Why does the scarcity of women in creative leadership roles matter? Well, for starters, women’s global income in 2018 has reached a whopping $18 trillion — that’s a serious amount of spending power, with women driving 70-80% of consumer spending. And with that growth, we’re seeing a huge movement toward diversity and inclusion. Women of color are refusing to have their stories told for them, through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about their lived experiences. If you’re going to tell someone else’s story, she better have a seat at that table. Better yet, let her tell her own story.
But what if she’s not actually a practiced storyteller, or she doesn’t yet have that skill under her belt? Saying not everyone is a skilled storyteller is not the same thing as saying that not everyone’s story matters. It’s important to trust artists, designers, storytellers to use their creative gifts to raise the profile of lesser seen narratives and to craft work with such care that it rises above the din of media saturation. Even more importantly, we have to increase access to training and tools and ways of making art; we have to build towards higher levels of craft without framing that impetus as cut-throat competition; we have to acknowledge that increasing access to training and building out talent do not always happen at the pace we need in a business setting, even though it’s absolutely a “both/and” approach. We have to make sure that those who have historically not been at the table are now at the table — heck, we have to make sure we even know what table we’re talking about! And beyond that, we must recognize inherent talent and nurture it with as much love and celebration as possible.
This is the world of commercial creativity — a world where clients, partners, collaborators look to commercial artisans to lift their message and increase impact through the craft of commercial art. Keeping pace with the market, increasing access, surfing the waves of evermore polished citizen consumer-generated content — it’s a tougher balancing act than it’s ever been. We need truly incredible artists now, more than ever. And we need to make sure we’re watching and listening with more openness than we might have thought possible. Lest we miss the paradigm shift that’s already well underway. Luckily, we have places like the 3% Conference to keep us all collectively and collaboratively moving in the right direction. I look forward to seeing you there!