I come from a family of strong, confident and capable women. Both of my grandmothers emigrated to the US (one as a child from Poland and one as an adult from South Korea) and navigated hardship to build beautiful lives in a new country. My mom was a single mother and created a career out of necessity but did so with positivity and persistence. I also have a sister, and we each have two daughters, and so on all sides I’m surrounded by multiple generations of incredible women.

When I think about my career journey, it’s been a beautiful combination of hard work (showing up with purpose to make a positive impact) and good luck (being at the right place at the right time). Part of the ‘right time right place’ has put me in the fortunate path of strong women leaders and colleagues who have offered their platforms to help me along the way. In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on a few things that I’ve learned from my incredible community of women.

Show up and speak up

Early on in my career, one of my first managers pulled me aside and challenged me to speak up more in meetings. “We hired you for your point of view, it’s wasted if you don’t actually share it.” There will be meetings or conversations where it doesn’t feel like there’s space for your voice. Remember that you bring something unique to the room (your perspective!) and dive in with conviction and curiosity. Getting to the best outcome, the best decision in any moment requires diversity of thought – and your voice is needed.

Group of men and women trail running in an outdoor environment, adidas, Outdoor, Terrex, sports, exercise
Be open to the guidance of great leadership.

Stop apologizing unnecessarily

A colleague reached out to me after a meeting a few years ago and said, “I’m not sure if you realize this, but you apologized ahead of a few of your comments” (“Sorry, may I offer a perspective? Sorry, but I see it differently.”). She went on to say that doing so was diluting my authority and worthiness in that room and in those conversations. I’m so grateful for this observation (that she graciously shared with me) and still actively work on this (it’s amazing what phrases we become conditioned to use!).

Strength and kindness can co-exist

I’ve seen this go both ways – colleagues leaning so far into the role of collaborator or people pleaser that they avoid difficult conversations. Or believing they must be harsh in order to be seen as authoritative. I’ve also seen and learned from leaders who balance both in unison. I believe you can be both direct and empathetic. Confident and humble. Assertive and curious. I don’t always land it perfectly, but it is always my north star.

Group of men and women trail running in an outdoor environment, adidas, Outdoor, Terrex, sports, exercise
Being a great leader requires us to be humble, yet strong.

Be your own greatest advocate

I’ve been fortunate to witness women standing strongly for what they deserve, which has given me permission to do the same. This is not always easy, as we are conditioned to simply be grateful for what we have and to feel guilty or selfish for asking for more. This became increasingly critical in 2020, as the world turned upside down and many were pushed beyond limits. Whether it’s in the form of general support, financial reward, recognition, time, opportunity, respect – be your own greatest advocate and unapologetically ask for what you need/deserve. You might not always get it right away, but you are worthy of this conversation.

Be an ally

Often in my career I’ve benefitted from leaders and colleagues offering their allyship to me in big and small ways – some that literally changed my life.

They opened the door for me – and then I had to be brave enough to walk through. But opening that door was the first step, and I now find great joy in being a “door opener” to those around me. Something to think about – how can you open a door for someone today?

Group of men and women trail running in an outdoor environment, adidas, Outdoor, Terrex, sports, exercise
Allow others to see your potential and open the doors to new possibilities.

Be true

I’ll end with a beautiful quote that I love, from Cynt Marshall, the first Black woman CEO of an NBA team. Here she was describing the type of team and culture that she looks to create:

“I want the person who gets up out of bed in the morning, all the issues they have, the background they have, the stories they have, the perspectives they have, that’s what I want to walk into our workplace every day. You don’t have to leave yourself at home. You don’t have to leave your story at home.”

Happy International Women’s Day to all of the brilliant, tenacious and inspiring women at adidas, bringing their truest selves – filled with strength and empathy – to the pitch every day. Cheers to each one of you.

Has your career been shaped by strong women leaders? Share with us your story in the comments below.


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by Tiane Allan 08.03.2021
Thanks a lot for this, Emily! Honest and relatable in so many levels, including the apologizing upfront part which I often catch myself and other women doing. Thanks for being an authentic and empathetic leader in our workplace!
by Ida 09.03.2021
Hi Emily, thanks for sharing and calling out many important aspects of the journey to success by staying true to yourself and others!