Earlier this year, my colleague Kate Kraus shared with me her enthusiasm for our new corporate intranet, a social and collaborative platform. She mentioned how easy it was to connect and network with other employees globally especially related to her work on the internal Women’s Networking Group. This brought the idea of creating “Women´s Mentoring Circles” to life.
After hearing of the internal Women´s Networking Group, I remember immediately thinking, “the what?”. I had no idea we had such a group at headquarters in Herzogenaurach! And next, “how could I get involved?”
I discovered that Kate had built up an organization in a few short months – for women, by women. It was an employee-led group that met on a monthly basis to discuss topics such as leadership, work-life balance and practical skills. The purpose of the group was to empower women to drive their own careersand support the adidas goal to increase women in upper management positions. I was immediately onboard with anything that provided support to fellow employees and let me meet other talented women in the adidas Group.
After our initial meeting, Kate and I decided to build a formalized program out of the Women’s Networking Group while still retaining the freedom of an employee-led initiative. Modelling our program after one built up in our Boston, Massachusetts, location and those promoted by Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, we initiated “Women’s Mentoring Circles”.
Women’s Mentoring Circles bring women of different backgrounds, seniority levels and job functions together to share experiences that help each other grow professionally. The diverse groupings bring unique perspectives and the opportunity to reflect on new ideas, challenge ourselves and support each other. The focus on women allows us to explore these topics and exchange personal stories in an atmosphere of confidentiality and trust. Each Circle is led by a senior woman leader from the Herzogenaurach office.
After a short advertising period on our corporate intranet, we received applications from over 145 women interested in participating. We initially had planned for five Circles but quickly needed to scale to the demand and now have nine!
As one of the nine Circle mentors, I have the amazing opportunity to interact with 16 women in the adidas organization, most of whom I never knew before. Each of us brings to the meeting our own journeys in our careers, individual experiences and opinions.
At our kick-off meeting in September, I shared with the group my desires for our journey together. At some point in our careers, we have all chosen to lean in or to lean back. We will talk about what those moments taught us and how can we share those experiences with one another. My personal leadership journey can be characterized by the quote: “Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out,” (by James Bryant Conant). Taking risks, pushing boundaries and exploring the unknown have all contributed to my personal growth. I would like to share my experiences with the Circle and focus discussions on how to grow from stepping into challenges.
After just one meeting, I was impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of the women in the group and from the positive buzz I’ve heard from the other Circles. It underlines exactly how important the Women’s Mentoring Circles program is for us at the adidas Group and how we will help support and empower women to push the boundaries!