This blog was originally published on the Huffington Post on March 7, 2013.
Today, I would like to reflect on the progress women are making in the global economy by highlighting the work of one woman who has been a source of inspiration for many: Randa Ayoubi. Randa is a woman entrepreneur from Jordan who had a dream of enhancing the lives of children by raising educational standards through multimedia learning.
Nearly 20 years ago, after her studies in computer science at Texas Tech, Randa returned to Jordan to work at a bank. However, Randa wanted a different path and aspired to be her own boss and contribute to society. She started a software business called Rubicon where she became one of Jordan’s pioneers in multimedia software for education at a time when rural poverty and the lack of teachers in villages was a big issue.
Randa exemplifies how the lives of women around the world have improved dramatically over the past century. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, gender gaps in primary education have closed in almost all countries. And over the last 30 years, more than half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force. Progress has been made in other areas as well, such as formal rights and constitutional guarantees for women.
Randa started her company with only $60,000 and two employees. Her creative nature, passion for animation, and desire to improve the quality of education across the Arab world led her to create the “Ben & Izzy” cartoon series. The cartoon focused on the difficult relationship between two boys, one American and the other Jordanian, conveying how co-operation is more productive than conflict as well as creating awareness and appreciation for differences.
Today, Rubicon employs more than 300 employees in four locations: Jordan (Amman), the United States (Los Angeles), the Philippines (Manila) and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai). It has partnered with some of the biggest names in Hollywood to co-create feature length films and cartoon series such as Postman Pat and Pink Panther. She has also expanded into other areas of digital content, including e‐learning, electronic game development, and virtual reality technical training.
Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers has been a mentor to Randa. Since the start of their relationship in 2004, John has thought of Randa as his “adopted CEO” and has given her insight into Cisco’s best business practices, good governance, and corporate culture.
Randa has inspired her employees to become entrepreneurs themselves and to open their own businesses while providing them with mentorship, similar to what she received from John.
Randa states, “John, that is what I have learned from you all, that it isn’t just about the leaders or the owners doing well, but it’s about the whole company sharing in it too. And I wouldn’t have done that if hadn’t been for Cisco.”
I love to tell Randa’s story because she is a true entrepreneur who had the vision and perseverance to develop a strong business plan focused on niche verticals within the digital content industry. She has recruited and retained a high-quality workforce and empowered her employees with the latest technology so their creativity could flourish. She is an inspiration to women around the world, is highly supportive of women’s issues, and is truly a special human being.
Randa’s story is particularly relevant today, International Women’s Day. For more than 100 years, International Women’s Day has been observed in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their economic, political, and social achievements, as well as an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments.
More importantly, it is an opportunity to look ahead to the untapped potential and prospects that await future generations of women.
See an example of how Cisco is helping women find economic opportunity on csr.cisco.com.