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3 Percent Conference, One Month Later

Posted on December 1, 2013 and read 4,323 times

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karengereffi 3 Percent Conference, One Month LaterKaren Gereffi
Senior Creative
Johannes Leonardo

“People overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do with their lives.”

This quote really struck me – mostly because it perfectly sums up a lot of people I know. We pile an unrealistic amount of things on our plate daily, setting ourselves up for failure and then the continual discouragement causes us to shift our long-term career goals. Our careers go from ambitious dreams to “we’ll see what happens.”

I found it fitting that this anecdote was actually a takeaway from the “3 Percent Conference” hosted in San Francisco this October. The conference was a chance to sit in the same space with a lot of innovative thinkers to talk about progress, specifically on paving the way for female creative leaders in advertising.

Weeks after being back in NYC, I was reflecting on the panels, speakers and conversations had at the conference, and I realized that they don’t do any good unless all the participants are actively sharing what we learned. So here’s a few key principles that stuck with me from my first day in SF:

Progress doesn’t happen without talking about it. Only 3 percent of Creative Directors in the ad industry are women. That stat is insane, and a little embarrassing. We joke about how different the Mad Men era was, but it seems like we’ve made a lot less progress than we think. So let’s spread the word.

Progress doesn’t happen without being about it. The 3 Percent Conference is taking on this cause and owning the mission to change it. Whatever your cause, I do believe you need some sort of investment and accountability to make sure you can truly rally behind it. If you have nothing to lose, there’s not as much to gain.

Progress doesn’t happen without doing it. Cindy Gallop, trailblazer and keynote speaker, so eloquently summed this up – “women get sh*t done.” Yes we do. So let’s get cracking y’all.


The conference kept coming back to a simple challenge for everyone to turn actions into “micro actions.” It was kind of amazing that simply adding an adjective created a foolproof way for people to stop making excuses about not having enough time. Genius.

Suddenly, the idea of something too big to tackle turned into something that might be solved with a few changes to your daily routine. And the conference did their part by giving everyone 50 small things they could do when they got back to their agency.

To be completely honest, I’m guilty.

I overestimate my day, and in turn, underestimate my career. I don’t often see a lot of females’ represented in ECD roles and it’s become easier to question my long-term plan. And I let causes such as this one pass me by because it doesn’t seem like there’s too much I can do about it.

But one of the panels titled, “The Most Creative Women in Advertising,” introduced a new perspective. I believe it was the inspiring Susan Credle who said, “We’re saying WHERE are all the women, but we need to be saying HERE are all the women.”

I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

It becomes really easy to talk about the problem. But progress hasn’t happened from talking about where we’re failing. So let’s start celebrating where we’re succeeding. Let’s “lean in” not only to our personal goals, but also learn from those who have and are paving the way for success.

In order to talk about it and be about it, we have to do it. I’ve had thirty days to reflect on the 3 percent and I want to spend the next thirty being about them. My “micro action” from this conference is to spend the next month reaching out to women in this industry who are doing it right. Whether they are super high level or just getting started, sending a creative shout out is my first to-do every day.

I’m sure I will still overestimate all the things I can do in 1 day, but it’s time to stop underestimating the rest.

IHAVEANIDEA and the 3 Percent Conference are both supporters of the Let’s Make The Industry 50/50 Initiative, a movement founded by ADC and  dedicated to championing equal gender representation on award show juries, speaking engagements and boards of directors. Learn more and get involved by visiting

  • Anonymous

    Bravo, Karen. As the founder of the conference, I am constantly looking for small ways that agency folks can make big gains around this issue. So much of it is having your eyes open and questioning the way things “have always been done.” The 50/50 Initiative that the ADC spearheaded is a great example of that. We have so far to go, but if there’s anyone who can reimagine an industry, it’s creative folks.

  • Emily Sokolow

    Thanks for writing this. I’m inspired and want to get involved.




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