Today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate phenomenal women around the world. This year’s theme, Step it Up for Gender Equality, encourages everyone to take the #Planet5050 pledge in support of a world where women are equally represented: in education, in civil rights, in the workforce, in pay parity, and more; “50-50” by the year 2030.
At Cisco, we’ve got strong women everywhere: represented in our customers and partners, reflected in the tens of thousands of women among our ranks, and formalized in our most senior executives, including Kelly Kramer, CFO; Karen Walker, CMO; Fran Katsoudas, Chief People Officer; and Rebecca Jacoby, SVP Operations to name a few. To reference Beyonce’s latest hit, we’re in “formation.”
And, yet, there is still so much work to do. As a part of our Government and Community Relations team, I spend a great deal of my time creating and leading programs that engage the talents of our global employee base with volunteer opportunities that demonstrate our support for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Next month, Cisco sites around the world will host Girls Power Tech in partnership with the United Nations’ Girls in ICT Day initiative. Last year’s events – in 91 locations and 56 countries – were organized by nearly 1,500 Cisco volunteers who welcomed 3,300 girls ages 13-19 to our campuses. The young women visited Cisco offices, interacted with our WebEx and TelePresence technologies, talked to employee volunteers about career advice, and more.
One thing I love about young people is that they can be brilliantly unfiltered. One girl stood and asked Kelly, our CFO, “Why do women have to tolerate being left out of the tech industry?” Kelly didn’t miss a beat: “You don’t.” The room fell silent, and then, boisterous applause and cheering. You could almost see the wheels turning as their adolescent minds processed the simple, yet unequivocally strong message.
The feedback from participants and employees was overwhelmingly positive. Creating exposure opportunities for women and girls early in their educational journeys can spark a light of interest that cannot be extinguished. It’s this kind of resilience and purposefulness that will continue to fuel our dynamic and fast-paced innovation economy. For our employees, men and women alike, they had a blast getting away from their desks for a few hours, connecting with bright young minds and being a part of a small moment in someone else’s journey of self-discovery. Many noted that they wished they had a program like this in their youth.
I’m proud to be a woman of impact at Cisco – we’re change agents, leaders, creative and flawed all at once. We are not a monolith, and yet, the issue of gender equality necessitates that we band together. Just as important, we must encourage and celebrate the men in our lives who join us in taking tangible actions that will further this year’s theme to Step it Up for Gender Equailty.
Join me today, on International Women’s Day, and tweet out a note about how you plan to support #Planet5050 by 2030.