jacpisciThis post was written by guest blogger Jaclyn Lanasa, Enterprise Account Manager Cisco NYC. Jaclyn Lanasa & Olivia Shen Green are co-directors of the 2014 Cisco Women of Impact Conference

About a year ago, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers told his employees that Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” book had opened his eyes. He vowed to walk the walk promoting diversity at his company. As a female working at Cisco for over eight years, I am proud to work in an organization that not only is brave enough to state where they have overlooked an issue, but is actively and openly talking about how they will make necessary changes to correct the problem. It provided both leadership as well as individual contributor’s an opportunity to collectively strategize on how we can further increase the diversity at all levels within the organization.

There are reasons many companies like Cisco are taking a closer look at their own diversity statistics and what impact that has on their business. Women are 57% of college graduates and 63% of Master’s degree holders, but that majority fades as careers progress. Less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, less than 14% of Executive Officer positions, and less than 20% of Congress positions are held by women. Interestingly, regardless of the negative statistics outlined above, there is a direct correlation on the success of an organization as it relates to a more diverse leadership team. Fortune 500 companies with three or more women in board positions created a competitive advantage over companies with no women on their boards in the following three areas:

• Return on Sales: 84% advantage
• Return on Invested Capital: 60% advantage
• Return on Equity: 46% advantage

There is no better time for women and organizations to Lean In together and take advantage of the joint success that each has on the other. There are many programs, initiatives and efforts that are being held throughout Cisco in an effort to do just that. One activity I want to share with you is my excitement around our upcoming Women of Impact (WoI) Conference on March 6th, 2014.

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I am one of the Co-Directors along with Olivia Shen Green and a core team who is leading a full day conference devoted to the development and advancement of professional women. The conference has executive sponsorship and funding across many segments within Cisco that see the value of getting involved and making a difference. Through the generosity of these sponsors, the conference is being held at no charge for Cisco employees as well as partners and clients. The event is being hosted in San Jose with over 25 additional events in the Americas alone. Attendees can expect to walk away from the event with an expanded network of professional allies and mentors across functions, come away with practical knowledge for career development and personal growth as well as an opportunity to interact with influential male and female leaders.

In the craziness of our busy lives and the competition for new roles and opportunities, it’s imperative we take an opportunity to invest in ourselves. For more public information on how to get involved in the Cisco’s Women of Impact Conference please go to our Facebook event on Cisco Empowered Women’s Network.

Let us know how your work place is making change happen by joining the conversation #WOI2014


Mary Anne Petrillo

Senior Marketing Manager, Digital Strategy

Corporate Social Responsibility