Cindy Gallop urges 3% Conference to 'stop talking about diversity'

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Photo Credit: Bronac McNeill
Photo Credit: Bronac McNeill

When agencies tell their employees that it's vital to diversify, "you seriously alienate straight, white men," said the activist.

Cindy Gallop, speaking at the 3% Conference in New York City on Thursday, gave men a selfish reason to hire and promote more women into senior positions: It'll make their lives easier.

"Women make shit happen and get things done," said Gallop, addressing attendees of the conference's "Manbassadors" track, a concentration dedicated to the role of men in creating change. "It'll make your life easier instantly."

Women will do all the things that you don't want to do and they won't take credit for it, Gallop told the men—while simultaneously acknowledging this is behavior women need to change.

Gallop's talk centered on seven steps she said would help foster diversity. One, put more women in leadership positions. Then, give them senior roles, step back and give them autonomy; equalize pay; stop talking about diversity; communicate through demonstration and end sexual harassment.

Though she bemoaned the tenor of the 2016 presidential election, she expressed gratitude that it had brought the topic of sexual harassment into the public eye. It is a widespread problem in the industry, and one that every woman working in it has been subjected to, including herself, she said, and it has had a profound impact on talent. "Sexual harassment manages women out of the industry," she said. "Our industry has lost so much talent, so much creativity, so many skills over the decades because of sexual harassment."

In regards to diversity, Gallop challenged the orthodoxy by advising the audience to stop talking about it. "Talking about diversity doesn't help," she said.

When agencies tell their employees that diversity is a priority, "you seriously alienate straight, white men," she said. "They feel threatened and feel unsure of their position within your company." And echoing the sentiment of another speaker, author Steve Almond, she said, "when men feel threatened, men weaponize their self-doubt."

Not only should agencies stop talking about diversity in general, she said, they should stop talking about their diversity programs because it makes other people feel they don't have to own the issue. "When people feel diversity is taken care of, they won't do anything," she said. Research has proven when you focus on remedying one area, it gives permission to "carry on with the same vices in other areas," she said. It's the same principle behind drinking a diet soda so you can eat a bag of potato chips.

"The quickest way to make people understand the business benefit of gender equality and diversity is to do it in a way that makes those benefits manifest," she said.

To do that, she gave the audience a challenge, reminding them of the conference's theme, "What are you going to do about it?"

"Write a strategic and creative brief for diversity within your company," she said. "Let's come up with an incredibly strategically insightful, creatively innovative way to make your company diverse."

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