This blog was originally published on the Cisco Learning Network.
I’m not an engineer. I’m not technical. I didn’t pursue STEM studies in university, either. So, why am I making so much noise and effort around getting more girls and women into STEM? Simply put, I’m an “advocate” and a “voice” willing to amplify my belief in the growing need to get more girls and women involved in STEM fields.
The bug bit me five years ago when I joined Cisco as a Technical Services Manager. Prior to working at Cisco, I was a people manager at MasterCard. I had little exposure to the technical side of the business, but shortly after starting, I found myself managing engineers for the first time. It was quite an experience, and a positive one at that! I had the chance to realize and break down all the stereotypes about engineers. I came to see each one as an incredible, intelligent, unique person that I was lucky to work with.
My teams were about 15 to 20% women, which was the complete opposite of what I was used to before my time at Cisco. Hiring women into the roles proved a frequent challenge at the time, with both a lack of female candidates and a very non-diverse team of interviewers. I began working with engineers in the Middle East and learned about their challenges in pursuing STEM studies. Some were discouraged by their family and friends, while others had trouble enrolling in classes at their local universities.
Hearing their stories fueled my interest and drive to make a difference. It was just too obvious; something had to be done, and I wanted to be part of that “something!” Not all of these women were willing or comfortable to speak up about the challenges they were facing so, I was ready to be their “voice.”
In 2012, I became very involved with a global organization, Greenlight for Girls (g4g). Greenlight for Girls is an international organization focused on inspiring and encouraging girls ages 10-15 to consider STEM studies and careers down the road through events full of fun, interactive, hands-on workshops delivered by STEM role models in the industry. Essentially, we are inspiring and building the future talent pipeline of female STEM leaders – who wouldn’t want to play a positive part in that effort? And what better age group to work with than these young girls, still full of dreams and open to discovering different possibilities and paths for their futures.
I made it my personal mission through my role and amazing network at Cisco to partner and collaborate with Greenlight for Girls by hosting g4g events in Brussels. In 2014, my dream of launching g4g in the Middle East came true thanks to the sponsorship of Cisco, Cisco Networking Academy, and other Cisco partner companies and organizations based in Amman, Jordan. Through the collaboration of g4g and Cisco, we’ve successfully inspired 150 girls in Jordan, 140 in Krakow, 200 in London, and 240 in Brussels. So, why do I do it? Because at Cisco, we have the power to change the world, and I plan on doing that, one event at a time.
Visit our Corporate Social Responsibility website to learn how Cisco is inspiring women to pursue careers in STEM