“This trip was worth everything I left behind for it. Now I have 36 sisters.” Thekra Dwairi is one of 37 women to participate in the inaugural TechWomen program funded by theU.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The programpaired women in Silicon Valley with their counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading technology companies.
Cisco had the honor of hosting the closing session for this 5 week program at its San Jose, CA headquarters. Each of the mentees presented their key technical and cultural learnings as well as their action plans for when they returned to their home countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza.
Loubna Haouam discusses her goals upon returning to Algeria: exchanging knowledge, encouraging women to learn English and providing computer access
The mentees ranged widely in terms of their backgrounds. Some work for international corporations, while others are local start-up founders. Some are world travelers. One woman mentioned that this is her first time out of her hometown! It was humbling to hear about the challenges these women manage on a day-to-day basis. Just applying for the TechWomen program was a challenge for Egyptian participants. The application deadline, February 1, was at the same time that the government shut down the internet—happily, an extension was provided. Read More »
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.
“Opportunities are handed to people who reach for them. In those quiet moments when you’re not sure, take a deep breath and go for it.” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke at the Professional Business Women of California Conference in San Francisco last week.
She covered many of the topics she covered in her famous TED talk on Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders; among them, how men will put themselves forward more than women, even if they have the same ability. She encouraged attendees to be more aggressive about reaching for opportunities, as women tend to underrate themselves.
Sandberg also spoke about how a doctor changed his teaching style after hearing her speak. Read More »
Many people across multiple industries are recognising the importance of Inclusion and Diversity and leveraging it to create the aforementioned win-win situations. Most recently Nicola Mendelsohn, incoming IPA president, highlighted the merit of diversity within the advertising industry in her inaugural speech on April 6 2011, but the cross-industry relevance is clear:
“Diversity of background fuels tension and creativity, and we must fight continually to ensure that the industry never becomes a place of bland conformity.
However, the answer to greater diversity does not just lie in attracting fresh graduates. That is why I would like to explore ways that we become an attractive home for those who want a mid-career change.
Some of our best, most creative people came from outside the industry.” Read More »
“There are some brilliant female role models in our sector, and IT is increasingly being recognised as a great career option for women. We’ve also got more legislation in place to protect women in the workplace than ever before, and more and more calls for greater diversity and more women in the boardroom.”