It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on 08 March, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

In 2022, only one in four C-suite leaders were female, so this IWD we’re quizzing one of our C-suite role models here at Adthena – Nicole Pennington, Chief of Staff – about her journey into leadership and the importance of determination and initiative for the next generation of female leaders.

Serra: Tell us about your role as Chief of Staff at Adthena? 

Nicole: As the Chief of Staff at Adthena, my primary responsibility is to optimize operational efficiency throughout the organization, with a particular focus on the executive function. I’m privileged to oversee pivotal projects that directly impact the success of our team and the organization as a whole. By aligning and executing Adthena’s strategic objectives at all levels of the organization, I work to ensure that we are well-positioned to achieve both our short- and long-term goals.

Serra: How did your journey into leadership take place? Did you always know what you wanted to do?

Nicole: My leadership ambitions took root at a young age. Even before I fully grasped the meaning of the words, adults around me would often describe me as driven, determined, and ambitious. 

My first career leadership opportunity presented itself when I was entrusted with leading a team on a multi-million-dollar software implementation project for one of the nation’s largest retail companies. This experience was a pivotal moment in my career, and it opened doors for me to lead various projects and teams across different facets of the software business.

My ultimate goal is and has always been to lead my own enterprise. At present, I’m concentrating on living in the moment – it’s not always about the destination, but the journey that gets you there.  

Serra: The theme of IWD 2023 is #EmbraceEquality: 

“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.”

What is your approach to embracing equality at Adthena? How do we celebrate and value differences here?

Nicole: My approach to embracing diversity and inclusion has always been centered on creating a safe and respectful work environment that encourages everyone to bring their whole selves to the workplace. My goal has been to recruit and hire based on merit and qualifications, without regard to gender, race, or other differentiating characteristics. 

Adthena is one of the most diverse environments I’ve had the opportunity to work in. Inclusivity is a core value that we uphold, and we strive to ensure that every member of our team feels supported and included. For example, last year we launched our new Family Friendly benefits package which is designed to support our Adthenians when they need it the most by enhancing our paid parental leave and offering a 4-day week on full pay to primary caregivers returning to work.

Serra: How do you see the future of women in tech?

Nicole: Over the past 20 years, I’ve witnessed a significant change in the representation of women in the tech industry. Seeing this transformation unfold at such a remarkable pace, and now being a mother to a young girl, I can see the momentum of progress gaining more and more speed. From greater awareness of gender bias in the industry to more support and initiatives aimed at empowering women in tech, the representation of women in tech will only continue to rise.

Serra: What advice would you give to the next generation of females who aspire towards leadership?

Nicole: As a mother of an 11-year-old girl, I find myself giving advice to the next generation of female leaders on a daily basis. We discuss the importance of taking initiative, questioning the status quo, and never settling for less. However, these strong characteristics alone are only part of the equation.

“Future leaders must learn from those who have walked the path before them. There are many powerful women who have paved the way for us, and it’s critical that we learn from their experiences.”

Serra: Has there been someone who’s supported you during a moment in your career that’s brought you to where you are today?

Nicole: Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to receive guidance and support from several mentors and teachers who have helped shape my journey. However, no one has been more of a rock for me than my husband. 

When I decided to pursue a graduate degree while balancing a full-time job and two young children, he not only provided unwavering encouragement but also took on the responsibility of caring for our children. Although it was a challenging time for both of us, it’s one of the defining moments that has led me to where I’m today, and I couldn’t have achieved it without his steadfast support.

Serra: Tell us a bit about you – what do you like to do on your days off?

Nicole: When I’m not driving kids to sports practices or other activities, I enjoy working out, taking on home improvement projects and spending time outside. There’s nothing like fresh air and a nice view to recharge.

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