When I arrived at adidas, I was eager to learn my job, learn the culture, and meet ALL the people. I joined the Women’s Networking Group, met people at the gym, reached out for coffee chats and happy hours. I secured a mentor.

I had made a good start but I began to realize what I really wanted was a group of supportive women who could meet regularly and check in with each other over career topics.

I had been in a women’s career exploration group as well as several other women’s support groups and found them to be uniquely successful at providing the support and excellent feedback that I needed.

Recognize available help

Two women having a meeting and discussing in front of a laptop. mentoring, women in leadership, mentoring circles, adidas, Lean In, leadership
Having spaces to discuss career development with like-minded women keeps confidence high and goals in sight. ©mimi thian/unsplash

I discovered that Women’s Mentoring Circles had been established at our HQ in Germany and among Reebok colleagues in Boston. I reached out to those groups and found a framework that I could use to form a group in Portland where I am based.

I looked at the needs of our participants and launched a three-month Mentoring Circle Program in 2016. Three groups of 8-12 people met every two or three weeks with a leader to discuss the topics of leadership, career goals, and communication skills.

If you build it they will come

The feedback from these groups was exciting and positive – every participant said the group had a positive effect on their lives and the Women’s Networking Group supported a launch of Mentoring Circles to the entire Portland campus in 2017.

This time a colleague, Amy Wick, offered her experience as a trainer to the mentors. Mentor leaders were offered three training sessions, and we launched with the following topics: Overcoming Obstacles, Leadership Through Confidence, Career Path, Female Leadership & Negotiating and Influencing, Pushing the Boundaries of Your Comfort Zone, Leadership and Managing Up, Women in Football, and Being More Creative at Work. I’m proud to say that 48 people at our adidas offices in Portland are currently receiving mentorship in these groups.

The 3 Cs Behind Great Leadership

Leadership is a a skill that is learned, practiced, developed and refined over time. Become a better leader by tapping into the unlimited power of collaboration, confidence, and creativity.

Train your skills

Learning from Lean In

Fast forward to 2018 when I learned that adidas and Sheryl Sandberg’s foundation, Lean In, had formed a partnership to promote equal pay and create awareness about the gender pay gap. As a result of that collaboration, Sheryl Sandberg visited our Portland offices to speak with our global Chief Human Resources Officer at the time, and our employees about equality in the workplace.

I was one of the lucky ones to meet Sheryl in person and listen to her speak about the challenges women face in the workplace. I could really see the value our Mentoring Circles Program were providing by giving female colleagues the tools and support they need to push for change.

We are now preparing for our third year of the Mentoring Circles Program, with Lean In providing the framework, materials for topics, training for facilitators, guidance and support for participants.

Campaign picture from the Lean In x adidas 20 Percent Counts campaign. gender pay gap, women, equality, diversity, Sheryl Sandberg
An example of the recent retail campaign to help raise awareness for equal pay in the U.S.

We are also working together to create awareness on Equal Pay Days throughout the year: Equal Pay Day for all women was on April 10; Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was just last week on August 7; and Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day is coming up on November 1. These dates signify how far into 2018 women would have to work to earn the same income men earned in a single year in 2017. As a key topic that often arises in Mentoring Circles, I’m proud to work for a company that takes a stand on such an important issue.

Calling all mentors

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in leading our Mentoring Circle effort at adidas is finding women leaders who are available to facilitate groups. We had nearly 50 people who wanted to participate and had to be waitlisted during the 2017 session.

The commitment to lead a circle is serious, requiring time and thoughtful consideration and planning. But it is extremely rewarding. I feel like I am part of changing the story of women being held back from leadership. I have a place where I can enhance my own leadership skills, practice interpersonal skills and am helping build confidence so my mentees can reach their potential. We work together to overcome fear, move into action, and take risks.

As a leader I get so much in return from my group – they challenge me and hold me accountable.

Group of businesswomen talking in the office. Mentoring, women, meeting, diversity, equality
Finding experienced mentors is a challenge for but one I’m hungry to address. ©pixelfit/Getty Images

Mentoring Circles are a place where women (and men!) can be unapologetically ambitious. Where participants can give voice to their aspirations and find the encouragement to start pursuing them. They’re a place for sharing ideas, gaining skills, seeking advice, and showing solidarity. Most of all, they’re a place where people can help each other become their very best selves.

I’m proud to have seen the need and taken the lead.

Do you have experience of similar mentoring circle programs either as a mentor or a mentee? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.


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by Chandrani Mukherjee 17.08.2018
Hi lois,
I do not have mentor. I do not also expect to have a single mentor for my entire career. Rather the women circle what you have created sounds interesting yo me. I feel their is a great need of such circle in my workplace as well.

I will explore the opportunity to make it in near future.

I liked to see Sheryl in your picture. It's inspiring no doubt.

by Kendra Burton 17.09.2021
It is great that circles like this exist. These are steps that we can take in crushing the gender pay gap that affects women. Great work!!!