Gender, Work, and Why We Need a Mindset Shift

Just ahead of Women’s History Month, four of our Adobe leaders served as delegates to The MAKERS Conference, joining in critical conversations about gender at work. This year’s conference theme was #RaiseYourVoice, and attendees spoke up about everything from equal pay to harassment and hiring practices.

We talked to Wendy Steinle, Adobe’s senior director for digital experience web strategy, about her top takeaways from the event, how to build inclusive teams, and why diversity builds better tech.

Of the things you learned at The MAKERS Conference, what had the most impact on you?

The conference instilled a strong sense of obligation, urgency, and inspiration to make a difference. And it distilled the fact that there is no change unless you bring everyone along — men, women, and those who identify with any gender.

One of the biggest ways we can make a difference is to create a mindset shift about gender. There are lots of men with good intentions, but they just don’t know… They don’t know that it’s not okay to call a woman a “smart girl.” They don’t realize that it shouldn’t always be the mom who leaves work early to pick up a sick kid. We need conversations between men and women so we can achieve the equality women seek, and the allowances men seek to participate more fully in the needs of the family.

We also need a mindset shift when it comes to diversity across race, culture, and backgrounds. We should all be able to say, ‘I believe our team performs better with more diversity, and I believe it’s good for me as a human to support more diversity.’

Why is diversity so important to Adobe’s success?

Here’s one practical example: Artificial intelligence is one of the technologies we’re leading, and as we develop AI, our human values are being built into the tech. If we build AI—or any technology—with people who all have the same backgrounds and experiences in life, how in the world is that technology going to reflect our diverse customers? As a global leader, we’re setting foundations others will follow, and if we don’t get it right, we’re exacerbating the problem.

What advice would you give to other business leaders who want to build a corporate culture that nurtures and thrives on diversity?

First, you need to lead from a belief that diversity is good for the company, good for your team, and good for each of us personally. If you don’t believe it, it’s time to ask yourself why. If the why has anything to do with fear, those are feelings to evolve beyond.

Then, set an intention to foster diversity. Look for biases and work to get around them. For example, if you’re only hiring from within your network, you’re likely to get more of what you already know.

With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it feels like we’re on the verge of massive changes for gender equality in the workplace. What do you hope will come of so many women and men raising their voices?

I hope that both men and women will have a different experience in the workplace. I don’t want women to suffer those moments when their ideas aren’t validated, even when a man who says something similar is validated. I hope men will recognize the need to participate in the change, and that it will be good for them too.

In the end, it’s not just about shifting norms for women, we need a shift for men as well. They need to go on paternity leave and be able to leave work to pick up the kids — to do all the things that women have been expected to do. If we want equality in the workplace, we also need equality on the home front.