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IWD 2020: Why we must champion the next generation of female leaders

08 Mar 2020

Article by Adobe A/NZ managing director Suzanne Steele.

The power of mentorships can often be overlooked. For women in STEM, mentorships level the playing field and can help accelerate careers. In fact, companies with formal mentoring cultures have 20% lower turnover and produce 46% higher-quality leaders. That’s why I’m so keen on focusing on mentorships and championing the next generation of female leaders for this International Women’s Day (IWD).

My own mentorship journey 

I also have a personal passion for mentoring. My own career path wasn’t always linear or traditional. I didn’t graduate from university. Instead, I worked, I honed my life skills, and I fuelled early-career passions. Whilst that could have held me back – even if it was just in my mind – I was fortunate to have incredible mentors shining a big, bright light on what could be. No matter where I landed or what I wanted next, there was always someone inspiring me, guiding me, and making sure I knew I could do this — to take that next big leap or, simply, feel confident to stand up and speak out. 

Now, I try to do the same for those around me – whether that is at Adobe or as a STEM leader. I want to help diverse doers and dreamers accelerate their careers and achieve their goals. By doing this we’re not only helping future leaders, but we’re shoring up the future of work for Adobe and for our industry.

Why my greatest difference is my greatest strength

When I think back on my career path I see how much I overcompensated. In not graduating from university, I believed I had something to prove to myself and to the world. I believed without that piece of paper I would be seen as ‘less than’, and that I needed to work 10 times harder to be considered on-par with everyone else.

Again, it wasn’t the case — but in my all-out sprint to keep pace, I discovered a career path I couldn’t have anticipated. More importantly, I discovered people who not only didn’t judge me, but propped me up, pushed me forward, and challenged me to think differently. From there, I felt confident taking risks and, even, making mistakes. And no matter what happened, my mentors and cheerleaders lit the way.

Today, I’m still very conscious of my background and my differences — differences that now inform one of my greatest passions: helping others realise their full potential, regardless of background. I recognise I’m in a position to help steer the future of work and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I want to ensure Adobe employees can truly flourish through diverse recruiting practices, mentorships, career training, and more. And I’m thrilled to do this in a market that’s known for punching above its weight — something I know all too well.

Mentors and mentees should come together this IWD

IWD offers the perfect moment to stop, reflect, and see what we can do as individuals and as a collective global community to promote gender diversity, inclusion, and equality. It’s also an ideal time to look at where we are and where we’ve been, celebrating women’s economic, social, political, and creative achievements over these last 12 months. 

Adobe Australia and New Zealand are hosting events in our market around this year’s IWD, where senior leaders will gather along with those they mentor. A mix of incredible, innovative young men and women, ready to find their voice and step into all that comes next. I can’t think of a better way to mark IWD than by talking about and promoting mentorships, and providing a backdrop for mentors and mentees to come together and think about what’s next. 

Why we’re also celebrating our ‘creative differences’

Diverse teams are innovation machines. They make better decisions and produce more revenue. It’s been proven that diverse teams are more successful, more innovative, and more profitable than their homogenous counterparts. But, while it’s easy to celebrate the benefits of diverse teams and even promote differences within organisations, embracing our own uniqueness can be a challenge.

As we head into IWD, we should take time to reflect on our differences. Or our ‘Creative Differences’ – a term we’re coining to highlight what makes us special and how, together, our diverse backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles foster creativity and innovation. We’re going to promote differences — and their unique benefits — from an organisational perspective, as well as the individual attributes.

That’s the foundation of Adobe for All, our global initiative to promote diversity, inclusion, and the value every single employee brings to the table. As an organisation, we know we’re better together — and we’re better because of our differences, our struggles, our passions, and our individual and collective learnings. We’re better because we have — and do — challenge convention and consistently break moulds.

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women worldwide — and, this year I’m urging that you focus on the power of mentorships and elevating the next generation of leaders. It’s the best way to ensure the next generation of leaders is ready for all that comes next. 

And as we’ve seen over and over — and as endless research supports — diversity isn’t just good business, it’s good for business. Diverse teams make better decisions and are more likely to increase market share. They’re more profitable. They’re more likely to attract top talent. 

Happy International Women’s Day!