Do you need a penis to direct an ad?

Only 3% of all Creative Directors in advertising are women. In a world where women influence 80% or more of consumer spending, this is business suicide. The mission of The 3% Conference is to build the business case for diversity by championing female creative talent and leadership by offering content, community and professional development.”

Launched on September 27 2012 in San Francisco, the 3% Conference has evolved into a 2-day 800-person event in New York City, multi-city road shows throughout the year, a vibrant online community on multiple social platforms, a student scholarship fund, a creative award, and a business blog to support the crusade.

The famous revolving doors here on Bishop’s Bridge road lead to a wealth of inspired creativity. We have a few different agencies here at DDB. With the New York leg of the 3% Conference coming up this month, here are some thoughts from three different DDB agency women working in different disciplines and at different stages of their career, from back in June.


The Suit:

As soon as I read about the 3% Conference I got really intrigued; not so much about its female exclusivity, but more because it held a very ambitious and empowering promise – to fight for diversity while explaining the merits of doing so. There is a subtle female warfare going on. Almost like a mysterious cult, advocating “girlcotts” (a word play alternative for boycotts) aiming to break the patriarchal reins that have been sustaining the status quo of our male dominated society.

Honestly, the irony of sexual inequality existing in the 21st century, the century of generations Y and Z, is both disappointing as much as it is upsetting. How can we claim diversity, open mindedness and equality when the facts are screaming out loud the hard truths we pretend not to hear? Every single day we should be giving a superb performance at any level, field and environment, because it is with confidence and passion, self-awareness and fearlessness that we will be able to conquer our goals.

The future of advertising is one where discussions about diversity will be redundant…

Rania, Account Executive


The Creative:

What resonated with me from the fantastic, dynamic presentation delivered with seasoned panache by Kat Gordon, founder of the conference, was how success in this industry is absolutely driven by different pools of life experiences. She urged us to continue to draw upon our different life experiences unapologetically. An abundance of ‘Male, Pale and Stale’ Creative Directors means that the creative output isn’t very diverse, and therefore less innovative and interesting. It is as simple as that.

There’s much to be said for fostering leadership from within an organisation. I feel like I’m part of a great team at DDB Remedy, since we have a great mix of men and women leading the company from the front and within. The leadership listens to the diverse voices from within the agency resulting in balanced, considered creative output. Listening to some of the other women at the 3% Conference, I’ve now realised that this isn’t the norm.

Cindy Gallop, founder of Makelovenotporn, delivered some well-articulated yet unfortunate truths about diversity. Like how “men are hired on potential whereas women are hired on proof”. Look up her TED talk yourself. She is an amazing trailblazer of a person.

I do question; should the objective of 3% be to increase the percentage of female CDs? Or, is the model working, in that we women are being inspired to find what works for us individually as a new gauge of success? As long as there is that visibility of diversity – since ‘people can’t be what they can’t see’ – I think that people are inspired to reimagine models of how women are represented in creative departments. Having said that, I met some inspiring women, the atmosphere was dazzling, and I’ve now set my sights on becoming a Creative Director in the next 10 years. We all – ‘Manbassadors’ included – still need to put ourselves out there as shining examples of diversity.

Natasher, Copywriter


The Creative Director:

The biggest barrier to women’s success today is themselves. We have to be confident that we can smash through that glass ceiling, that you can do that job, or leave it and get a better one, you can demonstrate why you should be on or off that account and ask to be on a different one. You can work in a different way to get a better life work balance. You have the law on your side. I can see the old fashioned industry is diminishing and our new healthier industry doesn’t come with such sexist beliefs or behaviours. There is still plenty to change and industry needs to work harder at putting women in role model positions which influence and encourage change. We have a collective responsibility to keep women interested and committed to working in this industry.

We need to talk to kids in school and encourage girls to keep on what is known as the ‘traditional male’ subjects. Girls can code, girls can do maths, girls can draw, girls can write and girls can direct… it is these girls who will become the future women in our industry and hopefully be leading it.

Victoria, Creative Director

Victoria Buchanan’s point of view originally was written for