Empower Every Voice: Adobe For All Summit 2019

AFA Summit Photography by Joe Buchwald.
Empower Every Voice: Adobe For All Summit 2019

“I love the fact that tech is expected to lead the way and is under the microscope. We have a moral responsibility and obligation to lead the conversation.”

Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen said these words onstage at last week’s Adobe For All Summit, focused on advancing diversity and inclusion, and I couldn’t agree with him more. Here at Adobe, we pride ourselves in being pioneers and bringing about meaningful change – instead of waiting for perfect industry “best practices” to guide our way. And our approach to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace is no exception.

This is why we are proud of holding our Adobe For All Summit, which took place in San Jose on September 12 and included more than 1,200 employees from nearly 50 global sites, in addition to being live-streamed to all our 22,000 employees. This year’s theme was “Empower Every Voice,” and we drove this message through a four-part approach to the event:  news and updates about our diversity and inclusion strategic progress; inspiring guest speakers; meaningful breakout sessions; and powerful employee storytellers.

Strategic progress

As we opened the day, I walked through our four-part strategy to drive progress at Adobe:

  • Building a pipeline of future technical talent by engaging young women and underserved youth
  • Sourcing candidates from a variety of backgrounds, and making our hiring processes as fair and inclusive as possible
  • Engaging and supporting our employees
  • And strengthening the industry by joining forces with our customers, partners, vendors and peers

We’ve had many highlights across these dimensions this year, but the most exciting to share on Thursday was our progress on parity. We reaffirmed that we are at global pay parity and we also gave our first update on opportunity parity, an initiative that we shaped early this year to examine fairness in promotions and horizontal movement across demographic groups. Our net findings were that we are incredibly close (within a third of one percent) for global promotion rate across gender, and US promotion rate across white and non-white employees year to date (end of Q3 FY19).

Building on that positive foundation, we plan to examine regions, organizations, job levels and major job families, along with horizontal movement in the organization. We are building the model for opportunity parity as we go – there is not an industry standard for this, to our knowledge – and we’re excited about how this can help all our employees feel confidence in the fairness of our employee processes beyond pay.

Inspiring guest speakers

Music legend, Gloria Estefan, with Adobe CFO, John Murphy.

We had a phenomenal set of guest speakers join us onstage at Adobe For All Summit, including:

  • Gloria Estefan, the international recording legend, who shared incredible stories with our audience including the struggles of being a Cuban-American immigrant; her father’s debilitating illness following Agent Orange poisoning in Vietnam; the strength of her mother and grandmother to provide for the family; and her own triumph over paralysis following a tour bus accident. Her conviction to pursue the career she wanted, without following the “rules” of Latin or pop categories, was an inspiration to everyone to follow their own path.
  • Daniel Kish, who has been blind since infancy, shared his pioneering work in teaching echolocation techniques to the blind to help them visualize what is around them through making clicks with their mouth. He also described himself as being on the autism spectrum and an introvert – yet he could not have been more engaging onstage.
  • Eric Hutcherson, chief human resources officer for the National Basketball Association, shared his untraditional path into his profession and encouraged the audience to shape their own career journey. He had our employees actively chanting, clapping and embracing his message!
  • Jess McDonald, member of the World Cup winning US Women’s National Team, discussed her experience as the only mother on the national team and her special relationship with her son Jeremiah. She also described the challenges of low pay for women’s soccer players and how she made ends meet in pursuit of her athletic dream.

These speakers were complemented by a large number of breakout sessions across a range of topics, designed to advance inclusion among our employees, along with Adobe speakers including our CEO Shantanu Narayen and CHRO Donna Morris.

Employee storytellers

The biggest hit of the day was actually not our guest speakers – although they were exceptional – it was our own employees who came up as part of our keynote content.

We tried this as an experiment, and as part of our event attendance request process we asked people to volunteer as speakers.  I expected we may get a few dozen volunteers, but we wound up receiving more than 640! I was blown away by our employees’ willingness to trust their colleagues and open up on stage this way.

Heather Combs, Senior Director of Brand Strategy, tells her story on stage.

Selecting the final eight speakers was a feat, but we could not have been more proud of the result. We heard stories about coming out, being an immigrant, the lessons of military service and the struggles of attention deficit disorder. We heard about bias, overcoming setbacks and the power of positive thinking when facing disability. Our audience laughed a little, cried a lot, and had a transformative experience by listening to their colleagues. I still get chills thinking about it.

Adobe For All In Action

As a final enabling element of the day, we took Adobe For All In Action a big step forward by offering printed cards that attendees can use to make their everyday team dynamics more inclusive. Check out those points and download a printable version on our website.

The greatest power in an event like this isn’t the staging, or the giveaways, or even the individual speakers and content points. It’s the feeling of empathy and connection that it builds among people in the room and others watching it from every office around the world. If we see things from another person’s point of view, we are more likely to care about them. We are more likely to help them, and we are more likely to give them a chance. That spirit of Adobe For All is what is driving our progress forward.

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