The 3% Conference through the eyes of a woman and a “manbassador”


Written by Kym Ohnä | Creative Director & Scott Dahl | Group Creative Director at Periscope

Kym Ohnä, Creative Director at Periscope: 

I recently attended the 3% Conference, where the rally cry was #BringIt. Bring your voice, bring your questions, bring support, bring your male colleagues… so we did.

The conference kicked off with a privilege check instead of a regular coat check. Have you ever been denied an opportunity due to your gender? Are you nervous in airport security lines? When you watch television, are there a lot of people in positive roles that look like you?  Hand over your coat and begin to think about your privilege. I love that I was challenged before the conference even began. By a coat check. And that is why I just love ad peeps.

When I started in this industry years ago, no one told me to find a mentor. No one showed me that failure meant I was getting closer to success; That I don’t need to be over-qualified to seek a promotion. That I didn’t need to build the cathedral — that I just had to bring a brick. Any maybe we shouldn’t be building a cathedral anyway.

When I was named the first female creative director at Periscope, it was in the days of 3% — when just 3% of creative directors were women. In a few short years that number has gone from 3% to 29%, and now, to 36%. We still have a ways to go, but we’re getting there.

But this isn’t just a statistics conversation. When I joined 13 other creative director men at my agency, I tried to lead like they did… and it didn’t work. I was proud to have the title, but I didn’t know that my uniqueness is what I should’ve been bringing. Like my motherhood experience. My single parent experience, my Halloween-costume fanaticism, horse-showing, dog-fostering, passport-collecting, lapsed marathon running, over-sharing, loud self. 

I have since figured that out, and it was so inspiring to hear “bring it” over and over at this year’s 3% Conference in Chicago: Bring your authentic self to work every day, because by doing so, you create a more empathetic workplace with employees who aren’t afraid to bring their whole selves to work every day. Our clients don’t need homogenous thinking — they need authentic connections.


Scott Dahl, Group Creative Director at Periscope: 

When my daughters were younger, I coached them both in soccer and hockey. At the time, I was surprised to know that they offered specific training seminars for male coaches of female players. Mainly because, in youth sports, girls respond differently to being coached than boys do. I had no clue — a theme I’ll get to later.

The training was beneficial, and I firmly believe I became a better coach, father, husband, and coworker because of it. But sadly, in my early years in this ad business, there were never any required or ongoing courses for “coaching” diverse groups of individuals.

Now, I’d like to make one thing crystal clear: the 3% Conference was not a training course. Yes, it was educational, but training is something that you’re usually required to attend. I was invited to the 3% Conference, and once I was there, I was embraced too. As Kat Gordon, founder of The 3% Conference, said, “We need men here to help amplify the movement.”

It became instantly obvious that my role at the conference was pretty simple: listen. Listen to the speakers. Listen to the people I met. Listen to the coworkers I attended the conference with. Listen to the stories. Listen to the questions and to the answers. Really, deeply, wholeheartedly listen. Then, after the conference, start the conversations and share what opened my eyes and what inspired me, because, wow… I learned a shitload.

The first thing I learned was that I had no clue (this is the foreshadowing from earlier). I had no clue that compensation inequality between men and women is still a thing — a really f’ing big thing that needs to change now. I had no clue I may have been inadvertently hiring people who looked like myself for the last X amount of years. I had no clue there are resources that can help me identify amazing and diverse creative and can stop the cycle of me hiring myself. I had no clue that this was more than a conference to bring awareness to the lack of female creative leadership in our industry, but instead an amazing movement that could change our industry and our work for the better. I had no clue that I will always have no clue — and that that’s okay, as long as I’m open to helping advance those who “historically have not had access to that power.”

So, instead of mansplaining what this conference may mean to so many creative women and to the future of our business, I’d rather just use their words that have inspired me. They’re the same words I now have posted on my cube wall right next to the pictures of my two daughters — women who I hope one day won’t have to worry about discrimination, unequal pay, and sexism. And they’re words that will continue to inspire me to “hold the doors open for others” as wide as I humanly can.

“Hold the door for others who have not historically had access to that power. Hold and protect that door.“

“Chase change.”

“Leave people better then when you found them.”

“If we want a better world, don’t we have to be better people?”

“Amplify the ideas of women in meetings.”

“Anger is a shitty destination.”

“Love costs.”

"Ego vs love. Love wins. Always.”

“Get-shit-done people are given shit to get done. Don’t be that.”

“When you know what you’re uniquely awesome at, no one can compete with you.”

“Don’t hire your friends. Don’t hire yourself."

“As a leader, get the hell out of the way.”

“Don’t interrupt. Don’t apologize.”