“Support one another!” That’s the key message from Adobe’s ANZ boss Suzanne Steele to all women in Australia on this International Women’s Day.
Speaking ahead of a special celebratory lunch held by Adobe in partnership with B&T, to celebrate the important role mentors play in nurturing female talent into leadership roles, Steele said while most of the mentors in her life had been men, she made a point of seeking out young women to help.
“I have and continue to seek out young women with potential to help in any way that I can. Whether it’s providing coaching, making introductions or acting as a reference, I believe in paying it forward. I want to build up the next generation of female leaders and it boils down to how we, as an industry, need to set an example for others to follow.”
Steele, who has 20 years’ experience in the software industry, said she “knows exactly how it feels to look around the boardroom and be the only female”. Before adding the statistics have been telling us for some time the benefits for diversity are well documented.
“Companies with female board representation outperformed those with no women on their board in terms of share price performance, according to Credit Suisse,” she said.
However, while the top end of town has been quick to cotton on to the fact that diversity is good for business, the same cannot be said for smaller firms.
“The Australian Institute of Company Directors revealed that female representation on company boards greatly declines beyond the ASX 200, from 27.9% for the ASX 200 to 15.8% for the ASX 201-500,” Steele said.
This not only impacts business individually, but this can impact the global economy. A report published by McKinsey Global Institute found that if every country could narrow its gender gap at the same historical rate as the fastest-improving nation in its reginal peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to its annual gross domestic product by 2025.
“We know that there are still challenges to overcome in the industry. By recognising and celebrating women in business, while finding comradery in the challenges and achievements of the industry, is a fantastic way to motivate and encourage each other,” she said.
Speaking of taboos she wished people would bring up in conversation more, Steele said she thought emotion was a classic case in point.
“Women and emotion in the workplace has often been brought up in a negative connotation. These views are not only often misrepresented, they are, frankly, outdated.
“As machine learning and artificial intelligence deliver many of the mundane and automated tasks that humans do today, emotional intelligence and empathy will become more important. Human skills like communication, strategic vision, leadership and emotional intelligence are what really elevate people to high ranking positions.
“In particular, emotional intelligence and authenticity are very important when you’re interacting with clients, building business relations and nurturing your team. What was once considered a negative attribute will be the difference between success and failure of many business.”