Wherever you turn at Adobe, you’re bound to find strong and passionate women thriving in their careers. Now, what happens when you bring together 500 of these women (and a handful of equally engaged men)? You get the Adobe & Women Leadership Summit, the company’s first internal conference focused on helping participants “Connect, Develop and Inspire” and build successful careers at Adobe. CEO Shantanu Narayen and many other members of Adobe’s leadership team were also in attendance, demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion at Adobe.
“Seeing that our executives are taking the time to be present and have this conversation is very meaningful,” said Julia Knecht, software development manager, San Francisco. “It shows that they acknowledge that this is a priority to them.”
Inspiration and Insights
The inaugural event was kicked off by Cindy Springsteel, VP Global Business Partnering & ERC, who pumped up the crowd for the day’s events and introduced Donna Morris, EVP, Customer and Employee Experience, to the stage.
Donna touched on the past, present, and future of Adobe’s diversity and inclusion efforts, including our enhanced leave programs, which will continue rolling out across the globe through FY17, and our fast-growing Employee Networks. She also spoke to Adobe’s dedication to ensuring equal pay, revealing that we’re right on the money. For every dollar a male makes, Adobe recently reported, women are making ninety-nine cents, a declaration that drew applause from the audience.
Adobe’s CEO, Shantanu Narayen, later joined Donna on stage where he discussed how the strong women in his life have influenced him and the importance of the Summit to driving diversity to Adobe. Fun fact – he credits his mother as his biggest inspiration who taught him to never measure himself to others and to constantly look within himself for growth.
“I’m inspired by how Shantanu exudes the Adobe culture and supports what we are trying to accomplish here,” said Lori DeFurio, group manager, Document Cloud, San Jose. “It’s that Adobe culture that continues to allow me reinvent myself and do the things that I want to do.”
The day was full of insights, including a Board of Directors panel with Adobe co-founder, Chuck Geschke, networking opportunities, and business and technical leadership panels featuring some of our female leaders across Adobe.
“The thing I’m the proudest of about the company is the culture of this organization,” Chuck raved. “When I see us on the list of the most respected companies, that makes my heart feel good.” He then challenged, not just the audience, but all employees to “continue to make sure the culture stays alive and to always be thinking of how you can help make Adobe better than it already is.”
The Summit also invited three accomplished women who have challenged the status quo throughout their careers to give keynote addresses.
The day’s first keynote speaker, Brené Brown, author of Daring Leadership: The 4 Pillars of Courage, took the stage with her frank, funny and revealing discussion on brave leadership and courageous cultures. Brené calls vulnerability the most accurate measure of courage that we have: it brings a sense of discomfort, but that is where the most growth is experienced. And so she begged the question we should all be asking ourselves each day: Will we choose courage or comfort?
Following Brene’s talk was a discussion hosted by Toni Vanwinkle, Sr. Director, Service Management, with CEO and co-founder of Black Girls Code, Kim Bryant. Kim spoke of the experience of being “rendered invisible” due to racial and gender discrimination as an African-American woman pursuing an engineering degree, and then witnessing her daughter experience the same. Bryant saw an opportunity to solve a social problem.
“I chose this path of a social entrepreneur because I did not want to hear that women are just not here anymore. So, I thought, ‘well let me make that never be a possible answer again,'” Kim explains. “Everything that we have been doing is for those that don’t have access because they have a parent that’s incarcerated, they’re in the foster care system – whatever the circumstance may be – and don’t have the benefits that others have available to them.”
The night ended on a high note with Ann Lewnes, EVP and CMO, leading a Q&A session with Samantha Bee, former Daily Show cast member and producer of Comedy Central show, Full Frontal. Samantha talked about her early career and how she was often criticized and passed by on jobs because she was a woman with a voice. Learning from these experiences, she implemented a completely blind application process for her show. No matter who you are, “a comedy professional, a new college grad, or a 45 year-old making a career change,” as Samantha puts it, you deserve an equal and unbiased opportunity to succeed.
Building A Community
“It’s amazing seeing the impact that this conference has on the women around me and how we are building a community and a sense of belonging. We’re in it together and feel like we are getting the strength and power to really change the culture for the better. I feel like I’ve gained a new family from this event.” – Sara Perkovic, Director, Research Programs, San Jose
“Suffice it to say, we’ve created…what’s the opposite of a monster? A force. A glowing, vibrant, connected force within Adobe that made us all feel inspired and proud. The finger was truly on the pulse of what we need, what we excel at and what we hope to accomplish.” – Marisa Lenhardt, Senior Manager, Business and Program Operations, San Francisco
“I left the Summit completely inspired and beaming with pride. It means so much to me that Adobe cared about our female employees enough to invest in our development by hosting an event like the Summit. I met so many great, smart, fascinating women from all over the world and was so personally inspired by all the speakers. I walked away with some tangible steps on how I can grow in my career. This was probably the best Adobe event I have ever gone to.” – Esther Ray Le, Program Manager, Employee Communications and Campaigns, Corporate Responsibility, San Jose
What the Adobe & Women Leadership Summit showed best was that everyone has the chance to make an impact. So let’s get started!