Have you ever walked into a room and felt like you were the only person who looked like you?
Or sat down at that boardroom table and instantly had your role diminished or marginalized because of your identity or background?
In high school, I was told I could do anything I wanted…except be an Engineer. So in true “Kanyatta fashion,” I set my sights on a future in science, technology, engineering, the arts, or math (STEAM). This experience helped me realize there will always be systems and people (including ourselves) who will try to limit our greatness, but that day (and every day since) I decided to take a bold next step into what I knew to be my destiny.
Pursuing my degree in engineering didn’t come easy. There were few women — and even fewer African Americans — in my college programs to serve as role models and for me to lean on or look up to. Without classmates or educators who looked like me or came from a similar background, I had to pave my own way…or bring my own chair.
The great Shirley Chisholm, women’s rights advocate, champion for the underrepresented, and the first Black congresswoman, once said…
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
I’ll expand on that thought with, “better yet, let’s re-design the table.”
Cisco & Women in Technology: A powerful partnership
To really move the needle, we cannot continue to fill vacancies using the same flawed hiring systems, policies, and practices and recruiting from the same talent pools. The key to change will be influencing the way the table is designed and how key decisions are being made around the table.
That is exactly why when I joined Cisco, I knew that Women in Technology (WIT) had to become one of our local strategic sponsors. Our strategies and beliefs align in designing a table where everyone single one of us — across the full spectrum of diversity — has an equitable seat at the table and feels welcomed and celebrated.
Over the last decade, I have had the rewarding opportunity to volunteer with WIT, a non-profit organization who empowers young girls and women to excel in STEAM from the classroom to the boardroom, and is committed to making Georgia the state with the highest percentage of women in the STEAM workforce.
Cisco’s continued partnership with WIT has empowered many young girls and women in 2022
Every year, WIT hosts the Women of the Year in STEAM Awards Gala — their signature event celebrating female visionaries, ground-breakers in business, and remarkable leaders who make a difference in their communities. Being on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA alongside more than 1,000 technologists, friends, and family was surreal. The atmosphere was alive with an electric energy and excitement as we honored women leaders and men allies for empowering STEAM in their personal circles every day.
As I looked around the gala, I saw tables filled with diverse groups of people — women of all ages and male allies from a varying array of races and backgrounds, and in varying stages of their careers and at differing job levels — who came together to celebrate the outstanding women in technology in the state of Georgia.
To me, this was a perfect example of how all of us can work together to accelerate fairness and inclusivity. It was such a humbling experience to see college students and new hires receive the same level respect and walk the same red carpet that Executives and Vice Presidents walked on the very same evening.
Cisco’s commitment to fostering a Conscious Culture
At Cisco, we see inclusion as a bridge to opportunity — opportunity to connect diverse perspectives, explore new possibilities, and most importantly an opportunity to “Power an Inclusive Future for All.”
We know that when young girls and women are empowered to be their most authentic, courageous selves, people of all gender identities, races, ages, sexual orientations, cultures, and backgrounds benefit from their brilliance. And when we continue to invest in these young girls and women, we are also investing in designing equitable tables within industries, communities, and workplaces that are more inclusive for all.
Want to learn more about WIT and how you can get involved?
Women in Technology (WIT) empowers girls and women to excel in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM) from the classroom to the boardroom. We do this by providing our community with education, exposure and experience. By sharing the stories of successful professionals across the STEAM fields, we encourage all generations of girls and women to write their own futures and choose their own destinies.
Today, WIT has over 20,000 members in Georgia, 48,000 members worldwide and a team of more than 250 volunteers who deliver professional development and networking opportunities to each of our professionals and programs at no charge to more than 4,000 students.
- Meet the 2022 Women of the Year in STEAM Awards Gala finalists and congratulate the winners.
- Get involved – as a member, volunteer and/or sponsor
- Become a donor