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No Inclusive Growth Without Women and Girls in ICT

Last week we partnered with the WEF in launching the 2015 Global Information Technology Report highlighting the importance of closing the gender gap in ICT to ensure everybody benefits from ICTs. Today as we celebrate the ITU’s Girl in ICT day all around the world, we recognize the challenge in front of us: fewer women and girls than men and boys use mobile phones and the Internet, fewer girls have shown interest in ICT careers, and fewer women currently hold positions in this industry.

Some of the statistics are sobering:

  • Teenage girls are 5 times less likely to consider a technology-related career compared to boys of the same age, even though the way in which each gender uses computers and the Internet is nearly identical.
  • Only 18% of undergraduate computer science degrees were awarded to women in the United States between 2008 and 2011.
  • In OECD countries, women account for less than a fifth of ICT-related specialists.

The ramifications of not encouraging young girls to cultivate a love of science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) – and more specifically, ICT – are broad reaching and impacts countries, communities and individuals. An enormous gap exists between the size of the ICT workforce demanded and the current global supply. Simply put, more positions are available or are in the process of being created than there are skilled workers to fill them. Employers around the world are struggling to fill hundreds of thousands of ICT jobs, and part of the problem is the lack of women trained in these fields.

The inadequate supply of skilled ICT workers is an economic problem compounded by the gender gap. The shortage leads to underachievement of an economy’s potential economic output, caps country competitiveness, limits potential employment gains and hinders innovation.

In 2015, the shortage of skilled IP networking professionals will be at least 1.2 million. In some countries, such as Costa Rica, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there may be over a 45% gap. Even where countries have a relatively low shortage (e.g., Australia and Korea), the gap ranges between 10 to 20%. And in all countries, the networking skills gap is growing – due in large part because of positive developments such as increasing connectivity, the Internet of Everything, rising digitization of all business activity, globalization of trade and travel, and economic growth.

While a wide range of economic and cultural influences drive these gaps, one resounding reality is clear: empowering women and girls to pursue careers in ICT, helping close the IP skills gap, is no longer simply a good thing to do—it has become essential.

Closing the digital gender gap is not easy, but with sustained and persistent effort, the private sector, in conjunction with NGOs and the public sector, can empower women while benefiting measurably in the long run. Below are a few recommendations for achieving inclusive growth:

  1. Transform Existing Models of Education to more boldly foster children’s interest in STEM, starting with early childhood education, as well as encourage both girls and boys to maintain an interest in math and science by finding ways to make learning more fun, engaging, and accessible. Cisco is working with incredible community partners like MIND Research Institute and Citizen Schools to meet this goal, with the hope of not only expanding the population of students that has adopted an interest in STEM, but to also enhance the quality of work that these students bring into the classroom.
  1. Invest in STEM Mentoring to provide students with role models who may inspire them to consider careers in these fields by connecting students in high school and college to STEM professionals. By participating, schools and participating organizations are challenging psychological barriers to student success. Students need champions to look up to as they explore their career options – when they see success in action, they are more likely to pursue it for themselves. Cisco is proudly committed to mentorship through its engagement with US2020, an initiative inspired by the White house to encourage STEM mentoring amongst leading corporations. As a founding partner of US2020, Cisco has pledged that 20% of our U.S. workforce will spend 20 hours a year in STEM mentoring by 2020, with particular emphasis on the mentorship of girls.
  1. Develop the 21st Century Workforce to prepare and train employees who are critical to our networked future. Investing in ICT workforce development is essential for future economic success. More individuals must be equipped with the skills necessary to design, build, maintain, and secure tomorrow’s innovations so that they are prepared to enter a workforce that is constantly adapting to emerging 21st century technologies. Cisco’s Networking Academies represent our organization’s enduring commitment to promoting and training the next generation of skilled ICT workers, engaging over 5 million students in 170 different countries since 1997. While most of these academies are co-educational, many are targeted specifically toward young women. One such program is at Effat University in Saudi Arabia, whose mission is to embolden women to become leaders through expanded employment options and career advancement training. Today, the program is training the next generation of women trailblazers in Saudi Arabia’s tech sector.

These suggestions represent only a few examples of how organizations, like Cisco, can close the gender gap in ICTs. Today as Cisco celebrates Girls in ICT day by hosting over 3,300 girls from 56 countries across 91 locations, we recognize that the economic incentives are in place; the demand for skilled labor is omnipresent and overwhelming; and the global imperative to empower women and girls has been expressed and agreed to on an international scale. With cooperative action, we can solve two of the world’s challenges in one fell swoop; investing in women and girls is not just smart for society – it’s smart for business.

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The Multi-Stakeholder Open Internet: Safe for Another Year

The multi-stakeholder Internet Governance process is safe from being replaced by a government-only top down process. At least for now.

The Internet as we know it has added huge social and economic value to the world as well as to our personal lives and is governed by a broad multi-stakeholder process including the private sector, technical community, academia, civil society as well as governments. Each group has an important role to play and the success of the process is due in large part to each doing what they do best and working together when and where appropriate. For example, technical issues are best left to the technical community while national security issues are primarily the domain of governments.

This multi-stakeholder, bottom-up, process is distinct from and in contrast to a multi-lateral process that only includes governments and their multi-lateral organizations. Internet governance broadly has been, and needs to remain, a multi-stakeholder process. It’s a proven approach that created the open Internet of interconnected network of networks in which anyone can access content and use applications from anywhere on the globe.

Earlier this month, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) concluded its important quadrennial Plenipotentiary conference in Busan, Korea, where the UN organization’s 193 member countries reviewed the ITU Constitution and Convention, elected its officials and set its agenda for the next four years.

Going into the Plenipot, there were concerns that some governments would use the meeting to impose the traditional top-down, government-led multi-lateral approach and counterproductive regulation to replace the bottom-up multi-stakeholder process. Some observers expressed their concern of a “UN takeover of the Internet.” Others were concerned that heavy handed and blunt regulation, which didn’t recognize the open and global architecture of the Internet, would fragment the Internet into national government controlled Intranets.

The good news is that none of the radical, dangerous or even just counterproductive proposals (such as regulating Internet routing) introduced in Busan survived the Plenipotentiary’s consensus-based process. In fact, the broad consensus acknowledged the importance of Internet governance processes and venues outside of the ITU while, at the same time, recognizing the important role the ITU plays, especially with respect to radio spectrum, capacity building, and working with emerging economies on development agendas.

This success was not by accident. It was the result of more than a year and a half of hard work and patient consultations among policy makers from governments around the world that are dedicated to the Open Internet and multi-stakeholder process. The US Delegation (including private sector, civil society and technical community members as well as government), led by Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, played a key role in Busan, along with many like minded countries, building a consensus around the value of an Open Internet and the multi-stakeholder process. They changed the debate by understanding the importance of relationships and listening when working with other governments to address genuine concerns, while at the same time, building consensus to reject destructive proposals.

As successful as the Plenipot was, it’s not the end of the story. Governments that want to exert more control over the Internet and replace the multi-stakeholder process are not giving up. They are playing a long game and there are important international meetings in 2015 where they will try again. There is a lot of hard work and difficult discussions to come. But an important lesson learned from Busan is that successful diplomacy and policy through relationships, listening, collaboration and engagement, attributes like the Open Internet itself, can be a winning combination.

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ICT for Girls, Women in Technology and a Dialogue at the European Union

April 25 2013 is a super day for girls and women in technology and Cisco was very present!  I am so energized by the fantastic people I met throughout the day commencing with a breakfast session Women2020 platform hosted by DIGITALEUROPE with the topic of Women In Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for Smart Growth of the pillars of the European 2020 Strategy.

The morning session included a panel chaired by Ms. Cheryl Miller, Founder of Women2020, and Dr.Hamadoun Toure’, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union; Ms. Eva Fabry, Director European Centre for Women and Technology; Ms. Marietje Schaake, member of the  European Parliament for the Dutch Democratic Party; Dr. John Higgins, Director-General Digital Europe; Ms. Patricia Reilly Member of the Cabinet-Research, Innovation and Science; Ms. Linda Corugedo Steneberg, Director for Cooperation-DG Connect; Ms. Sabiine Everaet, CIO Europe Group at Coca Cola and a packed room of participants including myself.

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On Girls in ICT Day, Cisco Encourages Teens to Pursue Technology Careers

Teenage girls use computers and the Internet as much as boys do, but are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career.

In the United Kingdom, fewer than 1 in 5 computer scientists are women (Women and ICT), and in the United States, women hold more degrees than men and make up 58 percent of the professional workforce, yet their representation in ICT is less than 25 percent (NCWIT).

Companies around the world will try to reverse these trends on International Girls in ICT Day this Thursday, April 25 – an initiative organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

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Cisco Gets a Gold Star for Tech-Policy and Standards Leadership

Innovation is often defined as novel technological invention. What is far less known about successful innovation efforts is that it takes a special breed of individual who possesses the rare combination of technical depth and sharp diplomatic skills. To be a successful innovator, one must be able to maneuver through political mine fields inherent with industry level leadership and standards bodies.

Cisco is fortunate to have such individuals who work in our Government Affairs, Compliance, SP Standards and Corporate Consulting Engineering teams and it makes the company a very formidable entity.

Our preparation for the ITU-T CTO meeting, the Global Standards Symposium and the World Telecommunications Standards Assembly, all held in Dubai this November, provide very recent and tangible examples of how Cisco is succeeding in this multi-dimensional world.

It is in such meetings that Read More »

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