This post was written by guest blogger Richard Bartmess, a Cisco IT analyst.
Inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and the demand for more freedom, transparency, and democracy, Afràa is determined to fight against corruption and to help lead her country forward. Imane has a master’s degree and works in an engineering field dominated by men. Neila co-founded a political party that won four seats in Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly.
Afràa, Imane, and Neila are just 3 of the 17 women from Tunisia who visited Cisco today as part of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship of the George W. Bush Institute. The Women’s Initiative Fellowship is designed to enhance the leadership skills of women around the world, with a focus on women in the Middle East and Africa.
During their visit to Cisco, the women met several Cisco executives, including Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Blair Christie, who gave a keynote address on such topics as:
- Why inclusion and diversity are important
- Women as leaders and change agents
- How technology can enable success
During her keynote, Blair discussed the distribution of women as leaders in the workforce. Only 14% of CEO positions, and 4% of tech CEO positions, are held by women. Given these facts, she stated that “change is not going to come from the USA” but will come globally. Therefore, empowering women on a global scale and enhancing the leadership skills of all women is crucial to fostering change. On a personal level, part of implementing this change is to “communicate your hopes, desires, and aspirations,” which Blair attributes to earning a promotion to a manager earlier in her career. Her final point to the attendees was that “as a female today, I do have to take control of my own destiny.”
After her keynote presentation, Blair engaged the audience in a question-and-answer session. One of the participants inquired about maintaining a work-life balance between her prominent leadership role and her family, with three children and a husband. Blair provided four suggestions on how to maintain a good blend. The first suggestion was to marry the right partner and communicate effectively by sharing responsibilities within the household. Planning ahead allows her to “choose those quality moments” in her personal life, such as a school play or graduation ceremony, and to set a calendar in advance for those moments. Making the right choices is important too. Blair stated that instead of aiming for a balance, she prefers to have a blend between work and life. Lastly, she advised to allow yourself some slack to create some flexibility.
Laura Quintana, Director of Operations in Corporate Affairs, presented an overview of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Cisco, and a leadership panel held a Q&A session on topics like maintaining a balance between work and life, overcoming challenges in the face of adversity, addressing cultural challenges, and obtaining a career mentor.
The visit was organized by Cisco Employee Resource Organizations (EROs) in partnership with Corporate Affairs. This is the second year Cisco has hosted participants from the Women’s Initiative Fellowship. Last year, 20 women from Egypt visited the San Jose campus.