Power of Connecting: Adobe’s First Women’s Summit

Connecting professional women is a powerful thing. For years we’ve sent handfuls of Adobe women to external conferences, from the Women in Technology Summit to the Anita Borg Grace Hopper Conference, and many others. It was a good investment; those who attended came back with new connections, they were recharged, inspired, and had new ways of thinking about their careers. But, as a team, we wondered if we could extend that impact even further.

It put us on a path to bring together 500 employees – mainly female, but there were some males too – from across the globe for our first-ever Adobe & Women Leadership Summit. We wanted to provide a forum for our employees to connect, focus on personal development and inspire attendees to pursue their passions. The speaker line-up included our CEO and Board of Directors, business and technical leaders, and thought leaders including Author Brene Brown, Black Girls Code Founder Kimberly Bryant and the engaging comedian Samantha Bee.

While we viewed the conference an experiment initially, with more than 1,100 employees applying for the 500 spots, the impact was even greater than I imagined. It gave us the opportunity to do three things that have increased our momentum with respect to diversity:

Reflect on Progress. Like many tech companies, we’ve been working hard to make our workforce more diverse, with efforts to improve the pipeline, our recruiting practices and the environment in which we work. Over the past year, we’ve made important moves like conducting an analysis to ensure equal pay for women in the U.S., extending family leave time, becoming more transparent with our diversity numbers and increasing support of coding immersion programs for women and minorities. Having a capstone event to bring it all together and showcase the investment sets the tone for the organization.

Develop a Stronger Community. With the rise of social apps (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc), we can sometimes be more connected with colleagues externally vs. internally. The value of building internal community for an IP-based company is critical. Your internal colleagues understand the landscape and can advocate, mentor, and offer actionable advice to advance your career in the unique place that is your company. It has been so gratifying to hear the stories of employees who met new colleagues from other functions, sites or geographies and the plans to keep building the connections.

Commit to Doing More. When you are standing on a stage in front of hundreds of employees, with thousands more tuning in online, it drives you to ensure you are doing enough. For Adobe, we committed to our employees that we’ll be working to expand our equal pay analysis to other regions. In line with this, we’ve signed the U.S. White House’s Equal Pay Pledge – an initiative to engage the business community to help close the national pay gap. Finally, we’re going to offer our extended family leave benefit to additional countries and we’re developing programs for “re-boarding” – onboarding for our returning employees — options for employees coming back from an extended leave, such as after having a child.

So how did this experiment work out? We had a room brimming with people and thousands more watching online, and I continue to hear about the impact it made on attendees. It was a day I’ll never forget, it was so rewarding to know that we had energized an internal community and created a movement to build stronger communities that support the growth, development and success of women at Adobe.

One of our keynotes, Brene Brown wisely told us to “Get in the arena,” meaning that we should get off the sidelines watching and take a risk to move business forward. I thrive “in the arena” and it reinforced the role that I will continue to embrace of driving change and opportunity for our employees that results in the further success of our business. Our inaugural Women’s Summit was a milestone in achieving that – I’m looking forward to the next one.

For more on Adobe’s diversity programs visit: www.adobe.com/diversity.html