Erica brings nearly two decades of project management, client coaching, consultation, and social media marketing experience to her role as The 3% Movement's program manager for their certification program. She actively advocates for women’s empowerment, social good projects, and non-profit organizations through her lifestyle and family life blog, and you might even have seen her on the TODAY Show, Women’s World Magazine, or MomitFoward for her efforts in promoting the value of positive, healthy, family and lifestyle changes. Data-driven, Erica thrives on numbers and strategic analysis to coach others in taking actionable steps towards real and lasting change. Erica holds a Certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell and an M.A. from Southern NH University.
Bring your whole self over here, put on your reading glasses, and get ready to dig into the Leadership Track of the 6th Annual 3% Conference sponsored by Bank of America. Words will not effectively convey the passion, inspiration, and sheer determination that emulated from within the Wyndham New Yorker Grand Ballroom on November 2nd, but here they are anyway.
The leadership track had some common themes, primarily that diversity and the ability to downshift or pause ultimately results in a better agency and that in any case, we need role models in leadership.
Pam Fulton from Bank of America opened the Leadership Track with the perfect keynote to set the stage. She discussed how different perspectives and experiences enhance leadership and how Bank of America is walking the walk by opening a new office in Boston staffed primarily by people with intellectual disabilities. On Beyond Gender, Pam says,
“It’s really powerful to think more broadly. No voice unheard. No one is left behind.”
Moderator - Lisen Stromberg,Chief Operating Officer, The 3% Movement
Shameka Brown Barbosa, Creative Director, The Brown Scribe
Laura Jones, Executive Strategy Director North America, BAV® Group
JJ Peyton, Client Service Lead & Office Co-Lead, SapientRazorfish Detroit
Donnalyn Smith, President North America, Momentum Worldwide
Armando Turco, General Manager, Vox Creative
Many women pause, downshift, and relaunch their careers.
In setting the stage for a discussion of how the model is truly broken, and how we can fix it, the Non-Linear is the New Normal session began with an incredible discussion of pausing, downshifting, and relaunching careers. RIght out of the gate—it’s important to remember that while we tend to think of “pausing” as a women’s issue or ma mother’s issue, that is truly not the case.
Pausing is a business issue, it’s a mother’s issue, it’s a women’s issue, and it’s a men’s issue.
Pausing is a necessary step for parenthood, including both men and women. Pausing is often a necessity for the adult children of aging and ailing parents, caretakers of partners diagnosed with a serious illness, or someone who has a long-term illness. Pausing is also for the young professional who’s just burnt out or the would-be world traveler that just needs the life experiences (who, by the way, probably comes back even more creative than they left).
The panel was a mix of those that have paused for the above reasons and, moderated by Lisen Stromberg, it delivered truth bomb after truth bomb with hard numbers that will stun you and almost force you to act to create change. Here are a few:
- 80% of college-educated women become moms, but only 39% of women in advertising are mothers.
- 72% of women in Lisen’s research downshifted their careers; only 11% wanted to. 28% didn’t pause because their companies supported their work/life balance.
- Downshifting is not just a women’s issue. A recent study of 30,000 white-collar professionals revealed that 72% of millennial fathers downshifted quietly by taking pay cuts and passing on promotions.
- 64 million millennials are expected to become parents in the next decade.
That last fact means we need to get this figured out, and fast. And, that’s not just a task at hand for the ad industry. Lisen posed a challenge to “disrupt the model for EVERY industry.” Yes!
Panelist JJ Peyton was the first pregnant woman at her agency. She took five months off when her child was born. Struggling to get back into her career, JJ knew that there had to be a better way so she proposed a flex schedule, opting to work a four instead of five workdays per week. Not only did her agency accept, but she was promoted at the same time. As her child has grown and parenting needs and schedules have changed, so too has her flex schedule. JJ added that her reduced schedule was never a pause. She continued growing and moving things forward. “It’s not a pause - you’re integrating.”
Facing the need to downshift? JJ says to be confident in yourself and just ask for what you need. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and then you can re-evaluate what you need to do.
Panelist Laura Jones also experienced a promotion when she moved to a three-day schedule. Colleagues often tell Laura, “It doesn’t feel like you’re only here for three days.” Still, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect or easy. She said, “Caregiving is a big challenge even with a part-time schedule. Childcare is a huge issue. It’s a balance between my ambition and my real life ability.”
As a proven employee, Laura’s downshift worked but it’s important for agencies to start hiring with these accommodations, putting them on the table in the beginning in order to keep the talent in the industry. Laura recommends that agencies employ ramp-up programs like “Power On.” Careers pause but talent doesn’t. More, “Life experience is really valuable.” She further explained that agencies “need to recognize what people have going on in their lives.”
Panelist Armando Turco is not a parent. He was the caretaker of his mother who became ill at the high point of his career. After she passed, Armando just needed some time, so he paused. This eventually led him to a new position where he had the opportunity to change the platform from the inside out. Armando told us, “It needs to start with the culture. The very fabric of the company needs to be built around it. You make it okay for people to change. It’s not scary for someone to say, ‘I need a break.’”
He suggested that one key to success is to “lay plans out in decision tree format rather than follow the typical linear career path.” Another vital piece of advice for those needing to pause, “Don’t stop learning. Everything evolves. Stay abreast to hit the ground running when you return.” So, what can agencies do? Armando says,
“People issues are tied to the economy in many ways. Time is valued more than value. Agencies are biased toward the person who can spend the most time and work the fastest versus who can add the most value. Agencies need to allot money in their budget to invest in people for talent that doesn’t fit the model.”
One way to do this might be to incorporate one of Lisen’s suggestions that agencies incorporate return-to-work internships for anyone that wants or needs to pause.
When introducing her, Lisen described panelist Donnalyn Smith as a “Work Pause Thrive role model.” After the birth of her third child, Donnalyn found herself leaving her seven-day-old infant with a caregiver so that she could attend a work meeting. She then spent the rest of her leave working on her business plan. She presented it upon her return and it was approved.
Donnalyn suggested that agencies need to “Celebrate more of the success” of those who’ve paused. The industry needs to “talk more about flexibility and pausing and share the success to show it works.” Her “number one favorite question asked during interviews is, ‘What is your philosophy on work/life balance.’” Donnalyn further noted,
“We can bring in all the best talent in the world but if we can’t make them stay, it doesn’t matter.”
Shameka Brown, a self-described unicorn, rounded out the panel with her own incredible story. After 18 years in advertising, she was a group creative director running her agency’s New York City office and working in excess of 80 hours per week. Her agency was short-staffed so there was little help to ask for, and she didn’t like asking for help to begin with. Shameka said that having more support at the mid-level would have been instrumental to her success.
She advised, “Find allies and accept support. If people want to figure out a way to work with you, they will.” Eventually, Shameka was laid off and that turned out to be a relief. The downtime gave her some insight and clarity and she decided to freelance rather than dive back in. She said,
“I would not work for a job that didn’t work for me.”
She held her ground, declining offers of work if they didn’t include flex time. She said that it’s important for everyone to priority shift. Think about what you want to focus on right now, stay focused and sharp on all the things you want to do. Need to pause? Just be sure to “stay connected. Know what’s going on in the industry even if you’re not actively working in it.” She also explained that “People in a position of power just need to listen. Look for underlying issues before trying to come up with a solution.”
Many women pause, downshift, and relaunch their careers. Many men do as well. In fact, most of those that have paused their careers are incredibly successful, not in spite of having a non-linear path, but often because they did. Burnout and exhaustion won’t lead to success, but gathering life experiences, having a healthy work/life balance and taking a break to recharge when you need to all contribute positively for both an employee and their employer. As does diversity, a subject covered in depth over the rest of the afternoon.
Speaker: Carter Murray, Worldwide CEO, FCB
Carter Murray discussed diversity’s cultural impact on great leadership, through such topics as the benefits of inclusion; the professional development and advancement of women; and the competitive advantages of such efforts. Murray also shared his own personal story about why women's empowerment is so important to him.
Carter Murray is a businessman. He’s also a father, and a son. His mother was a twin, her twin a boy. Their father would pass the business down to his son because that’s just how it was done. While the son drove the company into bankruptcy, Carter’s mother, the twin daughter started her own business and ultimately became one of the top interior designers in London. Success is not about gender, it’s about drive. She had it and her father missed it. Carter grew up with this story and became a success. But he never forgot one of the most important lessons from his mother,
“A woman should not have to prove that she is as good as a man.”
Carter doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He told us the story of a top executive in his company who receive an email at her former company with the subject line, “Go.” The email was filled with paragraphs of horrible text and no one at her company took action. Another woman listened to her family tell her that she was wasting her time getting an education as a woman of color, she ignored them, finished her degree program and secured a data analytics job where she heard, You should just stop trying to be so cute” from a man in leadership and her self-confidence all but disappeared. Carter says,
“People who think this is fixed are wrong. The men have to stand up as well as the women. It starts with leadership. You have to be accountable at the top of the company. You have to get the right balance at every level but it must start at the top”
Carter further explained that we are living in an echo chamber. If there is only one female in leadership at your agency and your CEO doesn’t commit to changing the problem, “Leave.” Agencies need different perspectives, experiences, insights, and backgrounds. We’ve got to “get out of the echo chamber.”
“The way you make smart decisions is by getting together a diverse group of people to brainstorm. Diversity drives creativity. It fuels it. As well as it’s the right thing to do.”
Carter emphasized the importance of ending unintentional institutionalized misogyny. Historically, the top 10 Directors are all men. Everyone wants top people but because past misogyny has held women back the top people are consistently men. Free the Bid is one way to help break the cycle. Overcoming unconscious bias is vital.
“If you’re interviewing four people and there is one woman what are the odds she’s hired? ZERO. Two women? 50%. Two out of five? 50% Two out of six? 50%”
As Donnalyn Smith explained in the earlier panel, Carter too mentioned that “We also need to celebrate the women that have broken through.” “Instead of ‘Where are the women?’ focus on ‘Here are the women!’” And, Carter says, while we have to celebrate the brilliant women it’s not just about gender. He laid out a three-step plan;
- All of us need to be brave enough to be open and admit there is a problem.
- We must fix things! Free the Bid is a great step toward doing that.
- We must celebrate the women that have broken through.
I think we are, or at least those of us attending The 3% Conference are, on our way. I would only add that we must also celebrate the men that “get it” like Carter does.
Amber Guild, Advertising & Marketing Executive
Kathleen Diamantakis, Chief Strategy Development Officer, kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners
Diversity is everyone’s responsibility, yet it often requires persuading key stakeholders to prioritize it. Amber Guild, Managing Director, The Martin Agency and Kathleen Diamantakis, Co-Chief Strategy Officer, KBS built the business case for diversity.
Amber Guild and Kathleen Diamantakis came to the (lunch) table armed with cold hard stats that anyone would be hard-pressed to argue against. Guess what? Diversity increases profit margins. Do you need to read that again? Diversity increases profit margins. That’s right - the more diverse your team or agency is is directly correlated with your bottom line. So, we’ve long known that it’s ethical to hire diverse talent, now you know it’s profitable too. Take that to the bank and to your stakeholders.
Kathleen explained that we have a responsibility to ensure change. She said, “We’re not talking about the moral case for diversity because you already know it - you’re here.” So, they talked about the business case. The moral case has not made enough change because the old ways are broken.
Amber added, “Racism, sexism, classism … BIAS!” She discussed how we naturally tend to have some bias and that it’s difficult for us when we’re in groups with people that are different from us. But, it’s worth it. “Our work is better when our teams are socially diverse.” Together, Amber and Kathleen created a framework:
- Product - Social diversity drives better work.
- Profit - Diversity means cold, hard cash.
“If you increase women from zero to 30% you will see a 15% increase in profitability.”
It’s about people. And, it’s about unconventional innovation. In fact, research shows that if we have socially diverse teams we get better. The Adobe-sponsored Diversity Disconnect Study found that while our industry is talking about, no one is doing anything behaviorally to make change. And again, it’s worth it. Here are some key notes from the session:
- The most diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns.
- Diversity cannot wait. It’s on all of us and it is time.
- It’s a business problem that we need to solve.
- By 2044 no one racial group will dominate.
So, we already know that diversity is everyone's responsibility. But, how do we market it? What can we each do right now to make change? Amber and Kathleen suggested this:
- When you have an open position make sure you are interviewing candidates from every background.
- If you see something, say something. Then, suggest a solution.
- Use the stats. Profit margins and revenue jumps with increased diversity.
Amber and Kathleen explained that diversity is a business problem. It’s also our problem. Yours, and mine. Together we can fix it. Let’s start by bringing our whole selves to work and inspiring others to do the same.
Moderator - Tiffany Yu, Founder, Diversability
Noni Allwood, Principal, Noni Allwood & Associates
Jennifer Brown, CEO, Jennifer Brown Consulting
Barbara Ricci, Managing Director, Global Markets Deutsche Bank
Many employees don’t bring their whole selves to work because it’s not a safe place to do so. The cost is far bigger than the personal toll it takes. How can you telegraph to all your employees that you welcome all that they are?
Bringing your whole self to work might be easier said than done. Many employees are forced to employ covering to hide their sexual orientations, substance abuse issues, and mental health status. Newsflash, I have anxiety. And I’m not alone. In fact, 18 percent of the US population over 18 also has anxiety. And, we’re creative, energetic, smart people who still get shit done. Am I right? But, we don’t always talk about it. Moreso, we see very few people in leadership openly discussing the very issues we are covering and so the need to cover is reinforced regularly. Let’s just stop this right now. How? We make work a safe place to bring our whole selves. Period.
This panel was moderated by Tiffany Yu and included Noni Allwood, Jennifer Brown, and Barbara Ricci, each bringing to the table their stories and the stories of others who’ve made covering a routine part of their workday. Of all the panels, this was one that was raw, emotional and for me, extremely relatable. I’ve been in a same-sex marriage that ended largely because I was too ashamed to talk about it, especially at work. I’ve suffered from depression that’s kept me from bringing my whole self to work, too ashamed to admit that I just needed a mental health day every once in awhile. Anxiety still hits me, especially in unfamiliar surroundings with a lot of new faces such as The 3% Conference. But, enough about me. Back to the panel.
Noni Allwood was a strong voice on the stage, with her long-time advocacy for mental health awareness quite evident. The first thing we’ve all got to do? “Give up stereotypes.” Barbara Ricci discussed how the opposite of covering is disclosure. In terms of mental illness, there are two types 1) someone that has a mental illness and 2) the business afraid of lawsuits. NAMI recommends that you don’t disclose mental illness while we’re working to create a company experience that fosters mental health inclusion. One way to do that is to increase the number of role models in leadership.
“There are not enough role models in leadership. Leaders need to be comfortable being vulnerable. We need to encourage leaders to expose vulnerabilities. You’ve got to tackle the diversity levels at executive leadership and watch that effect trickle down.”
The bottom line is retention. Tiffany emphasized that we’ve got to get away from the “Shaming and Blaming Culture.” Noni brought up the importance of making these changes now because,
“The younger workforce wants companies to be more than a workplace. They want them to be present. You don’t need to take a position but you need to say, ‘I Value you. I want you to bring your full self to work.”
Jennifer Brown discussed the Corporate Equality Index with issues such as transgender health benefits and self-identification being at the forefront. She said, “When you can’t be counted people doubt you are there.” In fact, 50% of the LGBT community remains closeted at work today. Members of the panel all agreed, “We need allies for all marginalized groups in our workplace community.” Tiffany agreed;
“Allies are the first line of defense in reducing covering.”
Jennifer said that leaders don’t know hot to get involved in the conversation. But inclusivity has to happen. “We need to call on not call out and have a space to foster these conversations. We’ve lost the trust in good intentions.”
The panel rounded out the discussion with a look at Unconscious Bias. sometimes, when there is a bias sent the sender doesn’t know it was sent and while the receiver is uncomfortable, neither talk about it. Barbara Ricci mentioned that the observer can be a really important role. All agreed that mentorship isn’t enough, that in order to take it a step further you need to find sponsors. Someone that will go out on a limb for you. Sponsors aren’t necessarily friends, it’s a business relationship. One that millennials might want to seek out right away.
On mental health, Barbara dropped a great soundbite, “Mental health. If you can’t mention it, you can’t manage it.” Noni followed up with a response to an audience question asking when to step in on someone’s behalf, “Think about it like this - would I have regretted more, saying something or not saying something.” Excellent advice.
Moderator - Jenny Bergman, Design Director, The 3% Movement
Brittany Adams, Community Manager, Doner
Mariam Guessous, Creative Director / Creative Entrepreneur
To remain innovative, impactful, and financially competitive, companies will have to go outside their corporate comfort zone to design roles for a purpose-driven millennial workforce. Savvy agencies are looking at an employee’s multifaceted gifts as a contribution to the company/department and not a threat. 3%’s Design Director, Jenny Bergman, moderated a panel with other multi-talented creatives.
Millennials sometimes get a bad rap. When asked to speak out the first word that comes to mind when thinking about millennials there were a few “creative,” “innovative” adjectives thrown out there, but also things like, “entitled” found their way into the mix. Millennials are literally the future of the industry, so now might be a great time to get to know them, understand them and to focus on long-term retention before they go off and do their own thing (and believe me, they will - especially if they listen to Cindy Gallop speak).
The “Why Millennials Don’t Want to Work for You” panel was moderated by Jenny Bergman. After an afternoon filled with intense knowledge, hard stories, and a whole lot of inspiration, Jenny knew what we all needed - a good “get up out of your seat and stretch moment.” With the stretching out of the way, Jenny introduced the speakers, Brittany Adams and Mariam Guessous.
Jenny asked the speakers what millennials want to see in a job listing. The overwhelming response is that they don’t want to see a laundry list of needs. Agencies need to be telling millennials why they should work for them and how they will advance a millennial's career. Both speakers dropped soundbite after soundbite of reality and all of them were too good to summarize. Take a look:
- “More connections are made over dinner and drinks.” Brittany
- “I left the agency world. It felt like an alternate universe.” Mariam
- “I had to work ten times hard to be seen or get 50% of the recognition.” Brittany
- “Millennials are mission-driven. They are just looking for a team.” Mariam
- “Millennials are looking for the opportunity to be mentored in other departments.” Brittany
- “Millennials want freedom of thought and opportunity to be creative.” Jenny
- “Millennials are a diverse set who want to contribute their whole selves. They want to be part of the process but as long as the model is top down you will limit the flow of ideas. Millennials feel it's a waste of their time.” Mariam
- “Millennials want to see themselves in leadership - need diversity to foster inclusion. They have more diverse sets of friends. A lack of diversity in the workplace is shorting and doesn’t represent diversity in the real world.” Miriam
- “Many creatives of color chose their career to bring representation.” Miriam
- “As a woman of color, I have to work extra hard. Eventually, there will be someone that needs to see me as a mentor so I can’t give up yet.” Brittany
Mariam mentioned that there are now four generations in the workplace; Xers, Boomers, GenY, and Millennials. Millennials want to collaborate, learn, AND teach. Learning should be up, down and in many directions. The model is top down and it’s no longer working. Everyone should be able to contribute and share ideas. Everybody has their expertise and we should all come together and work.”
And there you have it - diversity fosters creativity. In every panel throughout the day that was the major takeaway. The model is broken but there are solutions available, and it’s time for leadership to start taking them in and making them happen. What an absolutely awesome day of learning, sharing and being inspired. If just ten percent of the audience leaves with some sort of plan for action, and half of them follow through I suspect that we’ll see a shift before next conference.
Until then, what will YOU do?