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Fixing Broken Windows: Shattered Myths About the Glass Ceiling

Leading organisations now realise that improving the representation of female leaders is crucial to business success. In fact, according to research from McKinsey, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Where are all the women?

Cisco is a shining exemplar of gender diversity at the executive leadership level.

A look at our Executive Leadership “wheel” shows a well-balanced team, equal parts male and female.  But many companies across the globe would present an extremely lopsided wheel.   A recent Harvard Business Review article notes the lack of women executive officers in the Fortune 500 and asks this compelling question: “Why, when there’s so much conversation about the topic, are the numbers not moving?”

Before the top comes the middle

Why indeed? I believe there are few women at the top of the corporate ladder because companies are not focused on women working in the middle levels – middle-women, if you like. In her brilliant essay in The Guardian, “Forget the glass ceiling, we need to fix the broken windows first,” Jean Martin explains this phenomenon, “In many cases, women are not held back because of a glass ceiling but because of the cumulative effect of the micro-issues that women face day after day that slows their journey, or stops them getting to the top.”

Said another way, they never reach the ultimate destination because the middle of the journey is such a hard slog.

Fixing broken windows

Martin proposes a solution based on the crime prevention strategy known as the “broken widows” approach which asserts that small acts of crime (littering, graffiti, broken windows) escalate to more serious crimes if left unaddressed. She explains, “Translating this into the business world, preventative measures to fix the fairly minor day-to-day issues must be taken now. The smart employer puts the focus on understanding and engaging female employees just as they start to consider their careers. This means engaging in proper discussions with female staff about career aspirations early on, ensuring there are female role models within the company and making flexible working the norm rather than the exception.”

So what can companies do to help middle-women survive and thrive? Here are 5 ideas:

1. Begin at the beginning 

Attracting more female employees could be as simple as changing the language in your recruitment ads. In fact, Inc. Magazine reports: “Women are turned off to job descriptions that list traits typically associated with men such as assertive, aggressive, and analytical. Women prefer to see words like dedicated, responsible, sociable, and conscientious.”

2. Develop the talent you have  

Once you have female talent in the door, build your bench strength. For example, Cisco offers two unique programmes designed to address the specific development needs of aspiring women leaders. The DARE and JUMP women’s development programmes arm women with the skills and behaviours needed to excel in their current role and contribute to the future success of Cisco. They feature workshops that encourage networking with peers and leverage internal leaders as role models.

3. Establish networks and communities of interest

The benefits of networking are well documented. And women tend to be excellent networkers. At Cisco, volunteers have created the Connected Women network, a global community to attract, develop, retain, and celebrate talented women as part of a competitive and diverse workforce.

 4. Provide strong role models

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Melissa Mayer are often cited as role models for working women. But these examples can seem too far-removed. Women also need accessible role models within their own organisations. To that end, Connected Women at Cisco champions an Executive Shadowing programme that pairs middle-women “shadowees” with women executives for career insight and coaching.

5. Give women what they want 

The number one thing female employees value? Flexibility. In fact, 86% of companies on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For (which includes Cisco) offer some type of flexible schedule. In the U.S., we were recently named #3 on a list of “The 25 best tech companies to work for in America” based on six criteria including pay and ability to telecommute.   Last year, we were named #8 on a list of “The top 25 places to work in the UK” based on a survey by jobs website Glassdoor. Cisco was praised for “its training and development programmes and the work-life balance for staff.”

It’s all about the culture

Although companies like Cisco are making great strides at the executive levels, we must continue to “fix broken windows” for middle-women. And while the above ideas may help, ultimately what will attract and retain talented women is a culture that embraces diverse leadership styles.

What are your ideas for “fixing broken windows?” Share your insight in the comments below

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Cisco Partner Weekly Rewind – July 17, 2015

Partner-Weekly-Rewind-v2

Each week, we’ll highlight the most important Cisco Partner Ecosystem news and stories, as well as point you to important, Cisco-related partner content you may have missed along the way. Here’s what you might have missed this week:

Off the Top

Well, we’re in the dog days of summer here in North Carolina, and my dogs are celebrating by lying around on the couch all day. Sounds like a pretty great summer afternoon now that I think about it! As the weather has heated up here in the southern U.S., so has the news coming out of Cisco, such as when I mentioned last week that Wendy Bahr would be the new SVP for the Worldwide Partner Organization at Cisco.

It’s been a little quieter this week, but before I close out the week, there are a couple of items to bring to your attention, just in case you missed them this week.

Are you ready for SNTC convergence?

To get ready for the convergence of SMARTnet into Smart Net Total Care, there are a few changes you’ll need to make in the next five months.

We’ve put together a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.  Read More »

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The Internet of Everything (IoE) will require Digital Data Storage and Recovery Innovations

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.00.43 PMCo-Written with Usha Andra, Senior Analyst, SP Thought Leadership

For many of us, precious memories are digitally preserved in the form of pictures and videos. How we store and access our favorite photos, clips, songs and other digital content has evolved from hard disks to USB drives and now on to the cloud. And for those of us who have unfortunately dealt with a hard disk crash on our work or personal computers, we are painfully aware of the importance of data backups. Secure data replication and fast retrieval are essential for business productivity and positive consumer experiences.

Mobile Device

New challenges (and opportunities) are on the horizon for data transmission, replication and backup based on the global growth and adoption of IoE applications. As the IoE phenomenon connects things that were previously unconnected, it also leads to Read More »

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The Top Five Things That Will Drive Gigabit Consumption

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 10.49.10 AMBy Todd McCrum, Director of Product Management, Cisco Cable Access BU

Back in the earliest days of television – before satellites began spraying an instant and national video footprint over the Earth – operators wondered whether it made sense to expand spectral capacity any further. At the time (early 1950s), most markets topped out at three channels. The big question was this: why would we ever need room for more than 12 channels of television?

House

These days, there’s a similar refrain, with a slight shift in tune. It goes like this: why would we ever need a Gigabit-per-second of bandwidth? Read More »

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How Banks Can Capture New Customers by Adopting a Digital Strategy for Mortgage Lending

Banks are experiencing market disruptors attacking from many angles. They’re facing competition not only within the financial services industry, but also from non-traditional banking institutions that are delivering new mortgage lending models and innovative digital services that provide the convenience and personalization consumers want. Unless banks adopt these new models as well, they risk losing customers and revenue to competitors and emerging market disruptors. In this blog, I’ll focus on how banks can implement a digital branch strategy for mortgage lending that enables them to deliver greater value to their customers, improve productivity among their advisors and even increase profitability.

In mortgage lending today, there are common “gaps” where consumers are most likely to abandon the process or go to a competitor. From the consumer’s perspective, acquiring a mortgage is likely the biggest purchase they will ever make. They spend time researching it, getting their finances in order and gathering the necessary documentation. If the consumer visits a bank branch wanting to apply for a mortgage, only to be told that the mortgage specialist is not available right now or to make an appointment for next week, they are likely to walk across the street to a competitor and not come back. Banks are seeing “leakage” in the mortgage lending process as high as 70% in these scenarios. Once a customer has left, only 30% are likely to return. Read More »

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