Progress Doesn’t Stand Still

Adobe panelists sharing leadership advice with female high school and college students.

by Ashley Still

posted on 03-14-2019

Thirty-eight years ago, in 1981, Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the president of the United States to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” And in 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” A momentous moment, but did you know that from 1981 to 1983, women made up only 4 percent in the United States House of Representatives and Senate? Today, the percentage of women who are serving in the 116th Congress is 23.7 percent — a record number.

Although it’s easy to look at these percentages and say progress isn’t being made fast enough, it does not and should not negate the work that’s being done. When I see progress like this, as well as Adobe’s own gender balance increasing, it inspires me. And as I reflect on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, Balance for Better, it’s become clear that not only is achieving gender balance the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative.

First, your background (your gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.), has no place being a determining factor of opportunity or success. It’s that simple. Moreover, Balance for Better is not a zero-sum game — women don’t gain at the cost of men. In fact, history has shown that as women achieve equal access to opportunity — whether educational, political, or business — everyone benefits.

Second, Balance for Better is a strategic business imperative. Modern companies must hire and retain the best talent to remain competitive — and the accelerated pace of transformation requires more diverse skill sets. The good news is that women now earn more than 50 percent of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. The bad news is that many companies are squandering more than 50 percent of this potential talent pool through explicit or implicit cultures that limit potential. This is clearly an opportunity for significant talent advantages for companies that can hire the brightest people and enable them to equally contribute and find success at all levels of the organization, regardless of their background.

I’ve witnessed and experienced these problems firsthand throughout my career. I’ve had many roles where I was often the only woman in the room, and it was isolating. One of the reasons why I left my first job in investment banking was because of the lack of senior female role models that I could relate to.

Since then, I’ve made it my goal to invest in advising, motivating, and hopefully inspiring other female leaders. Because what excites me the most is seeing great female leaders in action, and I’m thrilled to see some of the most important products and businesses at Adobe are led by women.

There’s no denying that a lot of work still needs to be done — gender balance takes time, but I believe we’re already seeing the fruits of our labor.

Topics: Community, Diversity & Inclusion