Last month, 60 Cisco employees from across the UK & Ireland took part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, an epic and challenging 9 day cycle ride starting at the most northerly point in the UK (John O’Groats in Scotland) and finishing at the most southerly point in the UK (Lands End in England). The aim of the event was to raise money to help our Great Britain’s Paralympics team get to the Games in 2012.
For me, this event has a great “Inclusion and Diversity” story threaded through it. With 60 Cisco employees taking their bikes out on the road there was a wide cross section of people involved -- men and women of different ages, with a range of cycling experience between them from beginner to expert, from different Cisco offices across the UK.
And one of the great aspects of the event was that participants were able to choose how far they wanted to cycle. We had three cyclists who were able to complete the full 9 days covering a total distance of 974 miles, a relay team of 3 completed each day with 2 out of the 3 of them being on the road at all times, 3 riders cycled for 5 days and several riders who conquered Scotland. But the event was also opened up to a wider group of participants who weren’t open to take on such distances and just wanted to cycle 1 leg of 1 day, about 35 miles.
There were also 3 disabled riders who participated in the cycling challenge, including acclaimed Paralympian Danny Crates. One gentleman became the first hand-cyclist to take part in Ride Across Britain and his determination to complete the full 9 days was a real inspiration to the other riders.
In addition to our 60 road cyclists, there were also 10 virtual teams competing against each other for the most miles cycled, the most money raised and the best team name. As you can see from the photo, a TechnoGym exercise bike was set up in every Cisco UK&I office and together the teams rode 2216 miles, raised £2230 which is equivalent to over £1 per mile!
The 60 riders created a true “Human Network”. There was no hierarchy; everyone was on a level playing field and like a flock of geese, the riders at the front created an “uplift” for the other riders to cycle quicker and easier because they were travelling on the thrust of another. Those “geese” that fell back through tiredness or injury were supported by other “geese” who stayed with them until help came. Using Mapmytracks we were able to connect our road riders with our virtual riders and the various social networking feed, which further connected and enhanced our Human Network.
Feedback from the event was extremely positive. Our riders really enjoyed the employee engagement the event created and felt truly part of the Cisco family. They enjoyed connecting with people they had never met or worked with before and sharing a life-changing experience. Once riders completed their ride they would hug each other and celebrate their amazing achievement.
For me, Inclusion and Diversity is about opening up opportunities to everyone regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief or sexual orientation; it’s about creating a non-hierarchal, diverse, open culture to foster growth and innovation and creating a Human Network. I think the Ride Across is a great best practice of how we can encourage Inclusion and Diversity in our own workforces.
I have the pleasure of sharing with you a YouTube video of the “Printemps des Femmes”/”Women’s Spring Forum” a gender diversity event, initiated by Cisco and co-organized by 9 companies which took place in France on March 21, 2011.
The idea for this event came from Cisco. Sandy Beky, a Business Operations Manager in Cisco’s European Services organisation and an Inclusion and Diversity Ambassador, attended the 2010 edition of the Women’s Forum Global Meeting where she met many diversity leads from other corporations. Sandy felt that these diversity events often attracted the same attendees and wanted to create an event to provide women (who contribute to gender diversity related employee resource groups) the opportunity to network with other women to share and exchange their corporate best practices in the area of gender inclusion and diversity.
In true diversity style, nine different companies -- Areva, Bain&Company, Cap Gemini, Cisco, Deloitte, Lathams&Watkins, Nissan, Orange et Sodexo – worked together to virtually organise the Women’s Spring Forum. Between 10 to 15 female representations from these companies attended the afternoon event, which began with a plenary session facilitated by a well known speaker in France; Veronique Preaux Cobti, Founder and Managing Director of DIAFORA which specialises in promoting gender diversity in corporations. Veronique gave her audience top tips on how they can widen their professional and personal network, explained about the importance of networking and the barriers women can impose on themselves. This plenary session also gave women hints and tips on effective networking; for example how to introduce oneself at the event and how to continue networking after attending an event like this one, and Veronique encouraged women to practice this both during the event and after the event too.
Following this session, attendees were encouraged to attend practical workshops on the following topics: Personal Branding, Mentoring, Telecommuting, Assertiveness and Leadership. Each workshop gave women tools that they could immediately implement and take back into their everyday life. Feedback from the event was extremely positive – 88% of the women scored the event 4 or 5 on a scale from 1-5.
As a young female employee of Cisco, I cannot stress enough the importance of networking events like the Women’s Spring Forum. Cisco is founded on the principle of networking -- Welcome To The Human Network after all! And although women make up approximately 60% of graduates, there is still a shortage of women going into the technology sector. Networking events like the Women’s Spring Forum show the opportunities technology companies like Cisco can offer to women. I myself do not have an engineering degree and if you asked me to fix your computer or explain to you how a computer works, I wouldn’t be very useful! However, Cisco has provided me the opportunity to not only put my strength -- including creativity, interpersonal skills and being able to take a complex idea and make it simple – to good use but also do what I love the most – communications. And Cisco has also opened my eyes to new opportunities like Inclusion and Diversity. It is one of my goals in Cisco to share my experiences with other young women and to encourage more females to apply for jobs in technology.
Two nights ago, I had the pleasure of attending Opportunity Now’s 2011 Awards Gala Dinner at the Brewery, Chiswell St London. Over 500 guests came together to recognise excellent practices within organisations that are creating equal, diverse and inclusive workplaces, with a particular focus on gender.
“It’s the female trend and it’s the sustainability trends that are going to create some of the most interesting investment opportunities in the years to come. The whole thing about the female trend is not about women being better than men. It is actually about women being different from men—bringing different values and different ways to the table. So what do you get? You get better decision-making and you get less herd behavior and both of those things hit your bottom line with very positive results.” Holla Tomasdittor, co-founder of Audur Capital.