This guest post was written by Emma Reid, global marketing manager, Cisco Networking Academy Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific & Japan at Cisco and recent winner of the ARN Women in IT Awards.

In 2014, experts across Asia Pacific recognized a troubling trend — a growing number of female students were turning their backs on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. At the time, female enrollments in system engineering degrees in Australia were less than 2 percent, leaving young women ill-prepared for the technology-driven jobs of the future. This issue resonated with me, both as a mother of a young daughter and at the time the global marketing manager for Cisco Networking Academy, the company’s largest and longest running CSR program. One of the key strategic priorities of Cisco’s CSR strategy is to create an inclusive digital economy by empowering people everywhere with the IT skills they need to thrive. Cisco Networking Academy provides technical curriculum free of charge to educational institutions across the globe to empower people with career possibilities.

I knew we could leverage this program to create a new level of interest in STEM for young women and so we created the Women Rock-IT program.  Now in its fifth year, the program has reached over 1.6M young people to date.

Women Rock-IT motivates young women to consider STEM subjects by hearing directly from inspirational female role models. Through a live, interactive TV broadcast which can be viewed on-campus, in-person or virtually, young women:

  • Are exposed to the opportunities STEM skills can bring to their future, including career attainment and advancement.
  • Hear from successful female role models in a variety of IT-related roles ranging from social entrepreneurs to corporate executives
  • Access free enrollment into Cisco Networking Academy

Women Rock-IT sessions show how women have used technology to forge careers, think creatively and solve global problems. Speakers come from a wide range of industries and sectors, including:

Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, Founder, Project Vive invented an affordable and wearable device that can give a voice to 4.5 million people with cerebral palsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who cannot speak and Sandra Ragg, Head of the Office of the Prime Minister’s Cyber Security Special Adviser, opened our eyes to the world of cybercrime and taught us to think like hackers, defend like ninjas, and encouraged us to consider joining the fight against cybercrime as part of our careers.

Since 2014, the Women Rock-IT program has featured 43 female speakers, 27 live TV broadcasts and 28 blogs. As a direct result of the Women Rock-IT program, 32,000 girls have enrolled in technology courses. Additionally 85% of women enrolling are new students to Networking Academy.

I co-authored of a book entitled “Partners in Asian Development Cooperation: The Role of the NGOs and the Private Sector,”which dedicated Chapter 9 to the Women Rock-IT program and how Cisco is getting more girls in tech successfully across Asia. The book was edited by Anthea Mulakala of The Asia Foundation and was published just before the start of the 2018 calendar year.

We have just launched our sixth series of Women Rock-IT which is now a global program.  Over the next 12 months my team will air 13 live broadcasts across United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia, Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China.  The series will feature a new line up of 26 inspirational role models who innovate like technologists, think like entrepreneurs and act as social change agents.

We can all play a part in lighting the way for our future female tech talent and leaders.  If you would like to get behind the Women Rock-IT program and organize your own local event you can access the digital playbook to learn more.


Jennifer Boynton

Corporate Social Responsibility Content Strategist

Corporate Affairs