All of Us: Why We Cannot Separate Diversity and Inclusion

Nan Guo shares why diversity and inclusion are critical to success.

by Christie Chew

posted on 03-11-2019

Just ahead of National Women’s Month, six of our Adobe leaders served as delegates to The MAKERS Conference, joining 600 other leaders in critical conversations about gender at work. This year’s conference theme was #AllOfUs, the message being that it takes every individual, both men and women, to drive positive change for women in society.

We talked to Nan Guo, Adobe’s senior director of engineering in Ad Systems, about her takeaways from the event, why diversity is critical to our success, and how we can all work together to make a difference.

Why do you think diversity is critical to Adobe’s success in this digital era?

Many studies show why diversity is important, and that there’s a solid business benefit. In today’s world, we have the power to reach wider audiences than we ever have before, who have different backgrounds and identities. We need to learn how to build products that are being delivered to very diverse customers. The best way to understand their needs is to include their voices and opinions when building a product, and incorporating diverse employees to be part of that feedback. So really embracing diversity and inclusion can help companies serve bigger markets. It’s quite critical to growing our business.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only a right thing to do but also a smart thing. When we commit to making our employees feel valued, respected and empowered, we foster stronger company cultures, increase employee engagement, innovate faster, and outperform our peers.

What do you think are some of the biggest roadblocks in increasing diversity/inclusion?

One of the biggest challenges I see is people’s mindsets. A lot of people have a natural tendency to think, “You are either in my group or out of my group,” based on their similarities and differences. When people perceive others as different from them – whether it’s gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation – they are less likely to feel comfortable around them and trust them, and they often put them in an “outgroup” category in their minds. This mindset of exclusiveness is the problem. In order to give everyone equal opportunity, this mindset shift of embracing others who are different from us is critical to recognize we all need to be part of this movement.

What’s been your personal experience with gender at work?

I’m part of our engineering organization at Adobe, and when I was first starting out in my career, a lot of the time I was the only woman in the room. It’s easy to get lost and not have your voice be heard in that situation. I never noticed I was treated differently – I’ve always been treated as a valuable member of the community, but I was lonely. It’s important for us to have a bigger body of women engineers, especially in leadership roles.

I’ve been a part of the Girls Who Code and Women Who Code communities, and last year, I started an informal Women in Tech program in my own business unit to build a community for women on the Adobe engineering team. We meet monthly, and it’s been a great starting point for women engineers to connect with each other and feel empowered to have a seat at the table.

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

I’m still working on this, but I know that I hold responsibility as a woman in leadership to be a role model and example to others. So I’m pretty conscious about what I showcase to the rest of my team. My main advice is to lead with equality in mind and practice this in your leadership day to day. Make equality your own personal development goal. Be an ally when people have challenges and support them.

Some people are highly focused on diversity policies, which is a great starting point, but only implementing this without thinking about inclusion is a huge miss. How do we think about providing equal opportunity for someone to be successful in an environment they’re given? Diversity and inclusion cannot be separate, they have to go hand in hand.

The theme of MAKERS this year was “All of Us.” Why is it so important for everyone to play a part in creating positive change with regards to gender in the workplace? How can we all play a part?

I remember someone saying, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” For example, men might not be thinking about gender equality as a problem because they currently have that privilege. But we can’t just talk about women championing gender equality in the workplace, since they’re only half of our society. We cannot fully empower women without engaging men – we all need to work together to be successful. This has become a top priority for many companies, so I’m very hopeful and optimistic that we can actually make a change.

Topics: Diversity & Inclusion, Career Advice, Community