Keynote speaker, advertising director and founder of the 3% Conference, Kat Gordon, discusses her efforts and the success that she has had in challenging the lack of female creative directors in advertising. Kat shares her earliest experiences which led her to become aware of diversity and inclusion and reveals the common denominator that she sees in the early experiences of allies. Discover how men can best support women in inclusion efforts, why brands need to find the courage to take action, and the opportunities that arise in learning from mistakes.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- Kat’s diversity story and what compelled her to become an advocate (2:00)
- How Kat’s experiences in advertising led her to found the 3% Conference (7:30)
- Some encouraging results from a recent study of advertising agencies (10:30)
- How to get more participant diversity at conferences (15:00)
- The role of men in a conference about women’s issues (17:00)
- The problem with “diversity of thought” inclusion efforts (21:00)
- The unique challenges of women of color in the advertising industry (25:30)
- How the 3% Conference has grown into a larger movement (28:00)
- How men can address their fears and be positive change agents (32:00)
- The opportunity for brands to learn and grow from mistakes (36:00)
- Why you don’t have wait to be perfect in order to take action (40:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: Welcome to The Will to Change. This is Jennifer Brown. My guest today is Kat Gordon.
Kat has been called the “triple threat” of an entrepreneur, ad woman, marketing-to-women expert, and named one of the 30 Most Creative Women in Advertising by Business Insider in 2016 and one of Forty Over 40 women disrupting the world in 2014.
She is the visionary behind the 3% Conference. Started as a passion project to spotlight a huge business opportunity in advertising—the lack of female creative leadership and its impact on connecting with an overwhelmingly female marketplace—the 3% Conference has grown exponentially since its 2012 launch and has hosted events in 16 cities globally.
As founder of the 3% Movement, Kat Gordon is challenging the lack of diversity in creative leadership in advertising. As the world’s most pervasive media, advertising shapes culture to the tune of 3,000 messages daily. Kat’s advocacy and community building help ensure that this messaging is created by people representative of the consumer landscape.
Kat, welcome to The Will to Change.
KAT GORDON: Thank you so much for having me.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you for all you do with the 3% Conference, which we’re going to talk about later, and just the title of the conference is attention-getting, and has been really educational for me. We will find out later on what that exactly means, but let’s talk about you personally for a moment.
You are a passionate advocate and champion for the diversity and inclusion conversation. I follow you religiously on social media, I’m always watching what you’re doing, and trying to learn from you. Passion often originates in our own diversity story. On The Will to Change, we start with that. I’d love to hear, because I’m not sure I know it, what would you consider to be your diversity story? What compelled you to grow up into the advocate that you are?
KAT GORDON: I love that question. It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about because I’m a white woman and have always had a passion for diversity. I got really curious about what that originated. I think it came from two very early life experiences: One was that when I was four years old, my mother died. I was raised for a little while by just my dad, and then he remarried a woman with children. Very early in my life, I had a real crisis of belonging. Who do I come from? Who do I belong to? I never really felt like I fit with the nuclear family construct that I saw all around me. There was that sense of “otherness.”
The town I grew up in—Scarsdale, New York—had a huge influx of Japanese businessmen, largely in that era, moving into the community. A lot of their children were in school with me, and I just remember having a fascination by this different culture, and going on play dates where I made origami and the moms were serving interesting snacks. From a very young age, I somehow believed in my soul that what was familiar was a little bit dull, and that what was different was really worth knowing. I don’t know where that came from, but it was a very potent draw for me.
Even when I went to college, my campus felt very homogeneous, and again, I felt that sense of unrest. I studied abroad. I was a French major. I always had an interest in people that looked different than I did, spoke a different language—it was very alluring to me.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s a beautiful story. You used the word “belonging,” and I know that that word is becoming more and more a part of talking about diversity and inclusion. We all know what it feels like to belong, and if you can’t put your finger on why you don’t feel that you belong, that’s the inquiry that’s so interesting for us to be talking about. That’s the next evolution of how we’re going to talk about diversity and inclusion. Some companies are already incorporating the word “belonging” into how they speak about it, what they call the function that’s looking after this. It’s a concept that resonates.
In a way, it’s a more inclusive way to talk about this. We all know, when we don’t belong, it’s a visceral feeling. It can be subtle, it can be obvious and in your face, but our thesis is that everyone not only has a diversity story, but knows what that lack of belonging feels like.
Obviously, in the workplace—where you and I focus—that’s where we spend so much of our lives. Trying to connect to people, trying to do good work, trying to bring all of our potential with us, and yet being thwarted in subtle and obvious ways by the challenges in the business world, which I’m going to ask you about. Thank you for sharing that. I didn’t realize that happened at such a young age for you.
I’m curious, do you share those things very often? One of the things I theorize is many of us don’t share those exclusion stories as part of our leadership narrative or as part of helping others understand who we are and why we care. I’m curious if you do.
KAT GORDON: I’ve started to more and more. For a long time, I felt I would be disloyal to my family, especially to my stepmother, who did a great job coming in and providing a mothering influence to me at a young age. So it felt kind of like I didn’t want to make such a big, bold statement about what was missing from my childhood.
But the older I get, now that I’m a mother myself, I realize it’s an important part of my story. Even as I’ve grown the 3% Movement, I noticed that especially the men that have gravitated towards our movement, especially the earliest advocates, are exactly as you described—there’s something in their upbringing. They either grew up in another culture, they might be gay, they might have had a lisp—there was something that made them aware of what it feels like to be “otherized,” how real it is, how debilitating it can be, how much it can alienate you from the predominant culture. I actually see it as an amazing, rich conversation to have because there’s a beautiful golden layer to those moments. It makes you more aware of what’s happening around you, more observant, more compassionate. I do talk about it more and more.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s beautiful. You talking about it opens the door for a lot of people who may or may not feel they have any knowledge or experience around the diversity issue. I know this is true because when I go to your conference, I see more men than most. Actually, you have a whole track for men where they can attend, learn, and be vulnerable to not knowing the answers. I have found it be really unique. I wish it weren’t so unique. I wish that it were a requirement for every gathering that has anything to do with diversity and inclusion, gender equity. You really have committed to that.
I want to put in a pin in that because I want to go back a bit and talk about your experience as a creative director in advertising, and take us to that moment of creation for the 3% Conference. Tell us what was 3% and is it still true? Where has that movement progressed today versus where it started as an idea and a commitment that you had?
KAT GORDON: Yes. I worked as a creative director my entire career. Only 3% of creative directors were female, as recently as ten years ago. For anyone who watches Mad Men, and I know a lot of people do, even outside of my industry, that’s the job that Don Draper does.
It’s interesting to me that so many people look at Mad Men as this really quaint time capsule of a period in time that was misguided and small minded. But there was a lot of that still happening in advertising. It hasn’t evolved. And yet, if you look at the sources of who that advertising is supposed to motivate, who does most of the consumer buying, consumer decision-making, social media sharing on behalf of brands? It’s all women.
I really started this movement because I could not believe the business opportunity that brands were being robbed of by virtue of this very old-school notion of what a creative leader looks like.
JENNIFER BROWN: My goodness, 3 percent, it’s just really hard to stomach that. I wonder, what is it today? Who are the creative directors? We still have so much work to do because it might just be one kind of woman, right? You talk about all women being important, the intersectionality of women, and inclusion of diverse women as well. What progress have we made from 3 percent? I’m scared to even know the answer. Where are we now?
KAT GORDON: Yeah. Well, because I started my career in market research before I got into creative, I am a stickler for details. It might be a little bit more of a long answer that you expected.
That original 3 percent number was based on a very small and limited dissertation that was done by a graduate student. It’s shocking that it’s the only person who cared to measure it. But she looked at an award annual called Communication Arts, where advertising creative directors are recognized for groundbreaking work. She went through and looked at how many of the creative directors that are winning in that awards annual are female. She studied it over three decades, and it was 3.5 percent.
So we re-created her study, which I think is actually not a great metric, but we thought, “Okay, let’s see if it’s gone up.” And it had gone up to 11.5 percent in the summer—gosh, I think we did that study in 2014. But then it was really important to me that we create a better ruler to measure this because people who are entering work into awards shows, people who are getting awarded by largely male juries, it’s not a clean study.
So 3% did our own benchmarking study last year, where we invited 31 agencies to participate voluntarily and share data with us anonymously, some of which included creative leadership data.
What was encouraging was that in that study, the number of women who were serving as creative directors was up to 29 percent.
Now, one could argue that agencies that are in our network, willing to share with us, having a high trust factor with 3% are probably more progressive agencies. They’ve probably been to our conference, they might be sponsors, they’ve spoken, they’re enlightened. So somewhere between 11.5 percent and 29 percent is what I think is probably a pretty reliable number of how many women are serving as creative directors.
JENNIFER BROWN: Okay, but the title of your conference, you’ve never considered changing it? It was a moment in time, and it’s a call to action that’s motivating for a lot of us. You’re right, we need to get underneath the data.
I’m curious, did you see ethnic diversity, other kinds of LGBTQ diversity, for example? Did you measure for that when you were looking at refreshing the statistics?
KAT GORDON: We haven’t gotten really good metrics on intersectional diversity numbers. But I know for a fact that motherhood, which is a form of diversity, parenthood is a form of diversity, creative directors dramatically under-index for motherhood. Meaning that if you compare them to their peer set in terms of education and age, women in advertising are far less likely to have children, and far more likely to be the primary breadwinner in their household.
So that creates certain pulls towards a particular lifestyle. Yes, we want to get more granular and figure out how many women of color are represented in that 29 percent. As you said, how many gay women are represented? How many older creatives? Ageism is an enormous problem in my industry.
We’re just at the beginning of what I hope will be more accurate measurement and tracking and trending in the right direction.
JENNIFER BROWN: Do you find that having more diversity on your stages at your conferences, which you’ve been running for a while now, do you find that who you choose to show to the audience has a huge impact on, then, who shows up in the audience? How have you made diversity a priority amongst your speakers and your audiences? When I show up, I see a lot of diversity on the stage and in the audience—gender diversity, ethnic diversity. I’m sure there are LGBTQ folks, although we can pass or cover and that’s part of our own challenge of being seen.
How have you made that priority? What have you learned that you would recommend for other conference designers that has made the most difference?
KAT GORDON: First of all, thank you for that question; it’s such a thoughtful question.
We’re planning for our 7th annual conference, but in addition to that, we do traveling events. We’re planning now for our 24th event, and we’ve done a lot of events.
I realize how incredibly overt you have to be in your messaging about who you’re looking to put on your stage, and you don’t tap only the normal networks to find great people.
I spend a lot of my own personal time going to other events, going to diversity events, going to events like Here Are All the Black People, and really looking for who’s doing amazing work that has an inspiring message, and featuring them on our stage.
This past fall, we had 82 speakers on our two-day conference, and half of them were people of color. It was the best event we ever put on. It’s my own message coming true: Diversity is better. Diversity is good for business, diversity is more interesting, diversity is more nuanced. It has been interesting how hard I feel like we’ve had to work to reassure people that we are not just advocating for white women, that we are advocating for all women, that no one gets left behind.
To conference planners, first of all, I’m fatiguing of the defensive stance that happens from CES and other events where they don’t have any women keynoting, or they have very few people of color other than on diversity panels. I’m really blowing the whistle and saying, “It’s absolutely doable, it’s absolutely going to make a better product, it’s absolutely going to invite new people into the audience, and it’s absolutely the way any conference that wants to make change should be planning and executing.”
JENNIFER BROWN: I saw you really swinging in social media on that. I was saying, “Oh, what’s Kat tweeting about now?” (Laughter.) It was definitely CES and the “manels.” It takes all of us women, in particular perhaps white women—and I would say, in particular, white men—those are the ones I’m really watching to see that they are calling out the largely male organizers of a conference like CES. It takes all of us to use our voices in different ways, depending on who will listen to us the most.
I’m always thinking about the messenger as well as the message. I’m so intrigued by the role of men these days. Maybe in the agency world, can you talk about what has been the interaction of men coming to your conference? How have you ensured a safe space for those of us who feel like we’re coming to a conference and we just need to breathe, we just need to be amongst people who understand our story, which is a new or rare experience for many of us. But then at the same time, making it inclusive of incredibly passionate potential allies. We call them, maybe jokingly, the “manbassadors”—the men you welcome into the conference who then have their own track where they do their own learning and have their own speakers. It’s interesting to bring us all together, and then bifurcate us into separate conversations.
What have you learned from trying to do that? Do you get pushback? Do you think you’re onto something that’s really important? What have you learned about how we all can be in these conversations together and separately and have simultaneous learning?
KAT GORDON: Yes. I have really been a student of this issue, myself, over the years. A few things I have noticed—and I use this word again, I know I just used it a moment ago—overt. You have to be so overt in your inclusion message. I can’t believe how many men and agency sponsors I’ve had to say, “Please bring your men.”
Every year, before the conference, I put out the same tweet. Every year, it gets tons of traction on Twitter. And the tweet is just this: Agencies that bring their women to 3% Conference get it, agencies that bring their men really get it. And that seems to grab people by the shoulders, shake them a little bit. Oh, I see, this isn’t a women’s event; this is a business event about the imperative for gender diversity and all forms of diversity.
But we’re at a very interesting point now in year seven where, yes, we created this “manbassador” track to expressly make men realize that there is programming for them. We have a code of conduct that includes “no man bashing.” That is not allowed at our event. You are able to ask rookie questions and appear foolish without fear of backlash.
We’re at this interesting point both with men and with people of color where I don’t want them to have a special signifier any longer. I don’t want them to be the other group within a central conversation. I want every single thing we do as a company and as an event to model precisely what I’m asking them to model in their companies. Men are there, of course they’re there. They don’t need to be called something different, they’re just men at a business conference. People of color, of course they’re 50 percent on the stage. Why wouldn’t they be?
It’s a little bit scary to imagine letting go of some of those overt signifiers that make people feel welcome, but I feel like we might be almost ready to do that.
JENNIFER BROWN: I love how you put that. That’s scary for both sides. This is the challenge I hear with diversity of thought, for example. When leaders and clients say to me, “Well, we embrace diversity of thought. So we’re just going to start there.” I can hear in my head, in my heart, the echoes of the concern of many of continuing to be left behind, of having this acceleration of the conversation towards a more universal conversation to mean that the issues of particular communities which are real will get lost in the shuffle. That’s the delicate balancing act that people in your position, people in my position, we walk that line. We want the diversity conversation to be a part of everyday DNA and business as usually, but if you don’t call it out expressly and you’re not—to use your word—overt about it, people will not show up because they wont feel safe that you’ve actually heard them, honored them, and created a space for them.
I was just talking to Leanne, who runs Lesbians Who Tech. Until she built a space for queer women to gather, queer women were nowhere. We didn’t show up to things, we were the untrackable demographic. And every event I went to in the LGBT community was dominated by men and I was the only woman in the room.
We’ve got to create the space and continue to have this “both and” moment, but I hear you. What is next after this? How do we build it and bake it in? How do we signify that this is an inclusive space where you are wanted, but at the same time not labeling or tokenizing certain communities? I think you walk that line beautifully, but I’m sure that it’s not an easy thing.
KAT GORDON: It is not an easy thing. I just returned from New York. I live in California, and I just returned from New York where one of the events we had was an invite-only listening tour, one of three events planned for this year. We invited creatives of color to sit in conversation and tell us their biggest pain points.
I was there with my lead PR person, Nancy Vaughn, who’s a woman of color. Afterwards, we went out to a late dinner and it was an interesting head space we both were in. I felt we had just witnessed something very sacred, that people had been trusting and there was no press there, we took no photos. But I also was aware that the types of things we’re trying to unravel and be supportive around are a century old, and just so fricking hard to solve for. I feel such a sense of responsibility to leave no one behind, yet I also feel how Herculean this task is to get it right.
As a leader, I feel both a sense of tremendous responsibility right now, and a hope that I can make the tiniest dent in something so big and so important. I really understand that these women can’t wait any longer. They have just been not prioritized, not paid appropriately, not respected, not promoted. The ways that especially black women in my industry have been completely not invited into a conversation in which they truly belong and have value, it breaks my heart. I’m trying hard to figure out what levers I can touch and enact to change things. It’s also an awareness of, “I hope I get something right.” To make someone feel like I really want to show up for this community to which I don’t belong. I belong as a woman, but I’m a white woman.
I do a lot of listening and just taking notes, thinking, and trying to connect people. But I don’t have answers. I’m just one person who’s paying attention and compassionate and well connected, so hoping to be part of the solution.
JENNIFER BROWN: You make more of a difference than you know, I think you’re being really humble right now. Just asking the right questions and not having the answers, because I think a lot of us don’t have answers. Convening people that care, creating the space for that, and trying to help with whatever limited knowledge we do have as allies, as advocates, as intersectional people.
I often say that some of our identities allow us to speak truth to power in a way that may be heard differently. If that’s an advantage that we can use, we’ve got to use it. I feel like this moment we’re living through right now—and for the foreseeable future, unfortunately, until some really big changes happen—is using our voice.
It’s interesting, even as a member of the LGBT community, I feel being an ally is my biggest and highest calling right now. It’s an interesting flip because I do still need allyship as somebody who’s in this very stigmatized community, but I have so many other advantages because of how I was born and what I’ve bene exposed to and who I can speak to. Like you, I believe we all have to use what we’ve been given. That’s all we have. We’re all warriors for change, and we all have these different tools.
You’ve got this great platform, and I’m sure you’re getting called on with this whole Me Too movement, you’re probably getting invited into engagements and spaces which go way beyond conferencing. I wonder, is that happening? How are you thinking about it? Is something shifting for you in terms of how you want to use your voice next or what you’re being asked to do that’s different than what you’re comfortable doing historically?
KAT GORDON: Absolutely true. If you think about the fact that I lived my whole career as an advertising creative director, and then I became an event organizer, which I’ve never been trained to be. And now I’m being tasked to be, exactly as you said, a “culture shifter” within the machine.
I certainly didn’t plot this out and have a grand scheme, but somehow in my heart of hearts, I knew seven years ago that what was missing was a conversation and community. The conference has built that beautifully, and people describe it as feeling like a family reunion. There are so many kindred spirits in the room at these events.
What’s happened now is that we’ve earned the trust and the believability in the advertising world, the brand side of the world, and quite frankly, the tech community. A lot of communities are watching us saying, “These people are truth-tellers. They don’t answer to anyone, no one is bankrolling them.” So we’re now invited into conversations through a certification program we built and consulting services. What an honor to sit in rooms with an entire ad agency C-suite, and they’re literally asking us, “What should we do in this situation? What is best practice here?” And we have answers because we’ve done the research, we’ve polled our community, we have a point of view, and I have a team built out. It’s not just Kat Gordon. I am so honored to meet this moment and be in those rooms, like the Hamilton soundtrack, “in the room where it happens.” We are at that table.
And you’d better believe I’m asking, “Do you have an LGBTQ network? Do you have a women’s network? Do men come to the women’s network? Women’s leadership? What is your family leave policy? Is it described as maternity? Does it make it all about women?” There are so many questions that we’re asking.
Agencies are raw right now. They’re exposed, and they have the intent to build more inclusive environments, and we’re the ones handing them the prescription. Here’s what it looks like.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s an awesome responsibility, I know. I feel the same. I get goosebumps, “I can’t believe this is what I do for work.” But then you’re holding the keys and people are really listening to you, and you hope that the advice you give them—you and I know the recipe we’re giving them is the right recipe. It’s always been the right one, it’s just that it hasn’t been listened to and taken seriously for as long as I can remember. It feels like we’re turning a corner and being listened to differently.
I can tell that the nature and the energy of the inquiries we’re getting is almost a desperation right now because it’s born out of fear, and it’s the “oh crap” moment of the potential exposure right now. Sometimes that results in proactive and positive action for change, and sometimes it can drive people away. I’m sure you’re asked this all the time, but how can we ensure our male colleagues continue to lean into this conversation, especially in the fear environment we’re in right now as a result of Me Too and the swiftness of decisions and public shaming? It’s almost like a wildfire that’s going through right now that needs to go through. I know you and I believe in that, but the consequences in terms of open dialogue and trust is such a delicate thing. I know you know how delicate it is because you walk that line with your conference, holding the space for all of that.
Do you worry that there is some retreating going on from those ever-important mentoring relationships, cross-gender relationships that we need now more than ever?
KAT GORDON: I absolutely do. My business partner, Lisen Stromberg, called it the “Mike Pence effect” last week. And I thought, “Yeah, I know what she’s talking about.” Men who want to sidestep the entire issue by just never being alone with women and never mentoring women. I believe Lean In just had a piece about that. That is entirely the wrong way—to retreat and go backwards.
When I am invited into conversation with one individual man or a department or HR leaders, it’s important to acknowledge their fear and to tell them that these are uncharted waters and that we’re all trying to navigate them together, and that we understand it’s scary. Asking a rookie question can feel foolish. But the only way out is through. The companies that will own the future are the ones who are brave in this moment, and the ones that retreat and think they’re taking the safe route, they will get left behind. I believe that 100 percent.
In fact, you hear about publicly traded companies that still don’t have a single woman on their board, despite the fact that there is a body of research from multiple different think tanks attesting to the fact that diverse boards over-deliver to shareholders. I really do believe there’s a class-action lawsuit that shareholders raise saying, “You knew this to be best practices for my bottom line, and you didn’t honor it. I’m due.” Almost negligence—malpractice.
That’s my message, not to scare people—I hate the word “compliance,” that sounds so mandatory and punitive, when really it’s the way forward. But the companies that keep winning will be those that are having the hard conversations, are doing the right things, are curious and willing to be vulnerable. The more we see those companies rewarded by virtue of the talent that wants to work there, by virtue of their stock price, by virtue of their consumer goodwill and halo effect, yeah, that’s everything.
My background is in advertising, these are all the things you’re trying to build within a brand. And the companies that are doing the right things, yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s different than it used to be, but this is evolution. We are watching evolution happen. The men—or people, because there are a lot of women who buy into this old way of being, too—they will not own the future.
I saw a headline a few years ago that I had pinned up in my office written by that woman, Faith Popcorn. I always remember her name. She’s a trend watcher, but she had the best headline, I just loved it, “You can’t see the future from the man cave.” I believe that.
We’re talking so much about the pain of this, the uncertainty, how uncomfortable it is, but on the other side of that is profit, happiness, and prosperity. There is so much up side, and that’s what keeps me motivated.
JENNIFER BROWN: And you probably believe that brands can learn even after missteps—like what happened with PepsiCo and that ill-fated ad, there is opportunity for redemption and learning that I find hopeful. You get credit and points for trying imperfectly. I think you’ve said that a couple times on the individual level. As leaders learn, there are no stupid questions, we have to create these spaces. Do you believe that that also applies for brands and companies on the public stage? They’re trying imperfectly, and sometimes even offensively, sometimes those can be the biggest lessons for a brand.
KAT GORDON: Totally. Absolutely right. You nailed it. The thing that most ad agencies are trying to do for their clients in the best of times is to humanize them, to make a consumer feel there’s a person behind the logo. In a way, when a company has a really big gaffe on the public stage, it’s a very human moment. You realize that heads might roll, there are people with ulcers and phone calls being made. It’s an enormous opportunity for brands to show their humanity and their imperfection, to sincerely apologize, and to listen, to say, “We’re sorry, please share with us.” That’s the beauty of social media, it’s a two-way mechanism.
I’m amazed at how few brands understand that trying something and getting it wrong is an enormous opportunity to build good will around who you’re trying to become.
One of the things I remember saying after last year’s Super Bowl, not this most recent one, but we do a big event every Super Bowl Sunday where female creatives all over the country are live tweeting about the ads as they run on the biggest advertising spend day of the year, during the Super Bowl.
Last year, Audi ran this beautiful, beautiful ad about pay gap.
JENNIFER BROWN: I remember it.
KAT GORDON: Yes. And it was stunning. Then Audi took a whole bunch of lumps in the press because they don’t have nearly the representation of women on their own board and in their own ranks.
I remember giving a quote to a reporter about that saying, “If we wait for only the companies that are above any reproach to make bold work or invite conversation, it’s going to be very quiet for a very long time.” Not that they get a pass, it’s a great conversation to have, and to make Audi declare their own plans. But if we say, “You’re not allowed to make an ad like that because you’re not at the level that a company should be.” You know this probably better than I do, Jennifer, there are so few companies that truly, truly are at a diversity level of walking the talk policy-wise, ambient belonging, all of it—so few.
It’s a journey. We’re all figuring it out. I want more brands to be brave and to risk looking not quite there yet.
JENNIFER BROWN: That is a beautiful call to action, Kat. Don’t wait, we don’t have time to wait, and your employees and the world want to hear from you and hear what you stand for. Just being able to say, “We are on a journey, we are leaning, and we are listening.” Even if it’s an imperfect approach, I agree with you, if we delay that learning process—and sometimes it needs to happen publicly. Sometimes that’s the best instigator for change, but we can’t wait. That’s the bottom line, and the theme I hear whenever you speak. There’s a sense of urgency. There is so much potential on the other side of this, and we have to continue to push through. As you said, “The only way around is through.” That pretty much sums it up.
Kat, thank you for everything you do. I want to highlight your two conferences this coming year. You mentioned the big event in the fall, which is going to be in Chicago November 8th and 9th, that’s the 3% Conference, where I spoke last year in New York. There’s a smaller one in April, can you tell us a little bit about that one?
KAT GORDON: Yes. We done one traveling event a year, and it’s a one-day conference instead of a two-day conference. Instead of 1,000 people in attendance, it’s usually 300 to 400. We try to create a sub-theme around the event based on the geography of where we’re delivering it. It’s not just in LA, it’s in the Silicon Beach area in Playa Vista of LA. I live in Silicon Valley, but this little pocket of LA is fast becoming known as the hub for technological advancement.
We’re going to be exploring how technology intersects with our crusade. I already asked our lead producer, Andrea Nordgren, to go back to the 2014 conference in San Francisco where I delivered my opening remarks. And I remember saying that I firmly believe that technology will be a critical force in our crusade, because it’s easier to manage bias out of processes than out of people. We’re going to be revisiting that train of thought and say, “Okay, what technologies are happening that are making a dent and helping diversity take hold in companies?” Also, less of a softball that we’ll be launching is, “Why does this field have such difficulty getting it right in their own ranks?” You know, these technology companies are both the solution and the problem. It’s going to be a really rich discussion.
JENNIFER BROWN: I cannot wait. I must come to that one. I love the concept of how tech is going to help us overcome the intractable nature of our own biases. We can learn about unconscious bias all day long, it is so tough to route it out in ourselves and in others, but tech is going to help teach us, assist us, and maybe even hold us accountable to those biases so that we can build the muscle as humans to be better around our faulty writing, as I said in my book.
I love that space. It also made us realize that there is gendered language, there’s biased language in everything from job descriptions to performance reviews. And these subtle inequities have held so many people back. If we have a technology solution that points these things out, that helps us make different choices, I think it’s going to be a huge part of our strategy in combatting bias in the future.
I love the theme. Everybody, that is April 26th in LA. Don’t miss it. Kat Gordon, thank you so much for all the lightness that you bring to the world. I’m glad that you’re in the trenches with me.
KAT GORDON: It’s an honor.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you.
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