About six months ago I had the chance to join 600 brilliant women in San Francisco for the 3% Conference, a gathering focused on the gender gap within creative leadership—specifically that the number of Creative Directors nationwide was 3% at the time the movement started. The speakers were inspiring, and I left even more motivated than I had been.
But with all conferences, the true test is what you do with your knowledge once you return home. It took me a few weeks, but shortly after the conference, I did the hard job of analyzing the percentage of women in my studio. However, I struggled to find a way to discuss it constructively with my co-workers. I kept imagining all the negative responses, and it was distracting from my ability to create a clear message. I even questioned whether I was the right person to speak on the subject. But then, I realized that if a mature, self-identified feminist was too intimated to talk about the issue, then no one else was likely to feel comfortable doing it. It was time to put aside my fear and take action.
I arranged a lunchtime brown bag presentation to share what I’d learned with the studio, and the response was overwhelming. The audience was about half women and half men, of all seniority levels. We looked at the gender breakdown for our Fremont studio in Seattle—which is about 31% female, just 1% lower than the average in tech—and discussed how we’re lacking females in leadership, why it’s important, and how we might change it.
This led to compelling discussions about ways that women tend to undervalue their contributions and credit their teams, while men are generally better at identifying and articulating their strengths. For some, this was a new topic, for others, it was a safe place to share everyday experiences. This discussion helped us identify tactics to combat this phenomenon as a group, so we might better evaluate employees on their merits, not simply on their ability to articulate them.
For me, the most inspiring aspect of our discussion was a renewed effort to recruit more women to join our ranks. The Fremont studio’s heritage as a mobile development hub means that historically our staff has been mostly engineers, who were predominantly male. As we shift from an engineering focus to a design-first mentality, it’s important for us to achieve greater diversity, for the benefit of our clients and our work. After all, our ability to speak to, and motivate, consumers tends to be limited by our ability to understand them. We know that women are responsible for 85% of consumer spending, so building a workforce that better represents our population will likely only make it easier for us to help impact our client’s businesses.
So, what’s the number at your company? And how are you creating conversations that matter about women and other minorities in leadership?
Holly Perkins, Deloitte Consulting LLP, is a senior practitioner on the Creative Team and Deloitte Digital’s Design Competency Lead for the Fremont studio in Seattle.