As with all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015, number 5—Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls—is an objectively fair aspiration.

The trouble with a goal, however, is that it is an aim for the future, and in a world where women and children are already 14 times more impacted during disasters such as climate events, the time to involve women in crafting solutions is now.

And there’s more to equity than doing the right thing—there’s an economic imperative as well. Gender equity has a triple bottom-line potential with benefits to profitability, people and planet, according to this report.

That’s why this year on International Girls in ICT Day which took place on April 27, our Women Rock-IT initiative had a focus on women using technology to address climate change and protect our planet.

Addressing gender disparity in tech

Women Rock-IT was started 9 years ago to address gender disparity in tech, by encouraging young women to consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) fields.

The program does this by gathering a panel of inspirational women in tech to speak in panels that are broadcast globally, and to act as role models for young women considering a future in STEAM. Alongside the broadcasts, live events engage and challenge young women who are future technology innovators.

Since 2017, Cisco Networking Academy’s global female student participation rate has grown by a percentage point each year for the past 6 years to a rate that now reaches 26%, since inception.


This year our thought-provoking speakers were:

  • Mary de Wysocki, Cisco’s Chief Sustainability Officer, who shares Cisco’s purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All, and sees “the digital and low-carbon transition working in tandem to create a more inclusive and sustainable future.”
  • Dr Kate Brand, a space weather scientist for the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, shares her pathway to an exciting career in STEAM and using data to predict solar flares and coronal mass ejections in order to alert sectors that may be affected.
  • Dr Pandora Hope, Principal Research Scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, discusses how climate data reveals the human influence on our extreme weather and her expertise in climate models.
  • Nicole Sturzenberger, the Fundraising Director at Work on Climate, works at the frontline of addressing the climate crisis, and speaks of the importance of partnerships across a diverse range of interest groups—including tech—to be part of that effort.
  • Allison Wolf, CEO of Vibrant Planet shares her career journey from Netflix to developing technology solutions that restore damaged ecosystems, with a focus on carbon drawdown through forests and soil.
  • And Brent Davies, President of VP Data Commons, works at putting technology at the center of forest restoration and protection efforts.

These lively discussions were recorded and are available for viewing at any time.

Other sources of information include interviews with executives such as Laura Quintana, Vice President and General Manager of Networking Academy, about opportunities for women in tech.

The events

Our special Girls in ICT Day Women Rock-IT virtual broadcast on April 27, 2023, saw over 37 thousand registrants and over 18.5 thousand participants including a Learn-A-Thon in 41 countries, and more than 200 Cisco volunteers from around the world facilitating live programs.

Impact numbers in a graphic

The Learn-A-Thon included prizes for Instructors (first going to Siriki Surya Ashok Kumar, of Aditya Academy with an astonishing 5,163 student participants), Academies (Aditya Academy again, with 8,940 participants), and Academy Support Centers (EdCreate Foundation, with 8,940 participants).

Live events were held around the world, many hosted by Cisco volunteers at university campuses, schools, and Cisco offices including Richardson, Texas; Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, Australia; Germany; Italy; Singapore; and many more.

Cisco Germany General Manager Uwe Peter says, “my day started with a meeting of a very special kind. And with over 100 young, talented and inquisitive girls. Our team has put together a great program at six locations to whet our participants’ appetite for technology, digitization, IT and a career at Cisco. In times of a shortage of skilled workers—and over 137,000 unfilled IT positions in Germany—this is an important commitment that we take seriously as a company. Many thanks to all colleagues for putting together the great program and your commitment.”

A photo collage of people in an office setting and a data center.
Cisco Germany General Manager Uwe Peter (standing top right) hosts Girls in ICT Day.

In Texas, Luciana Pedrosa Lima Powell, Partner Development Specialist – Management of Strategic Partnership at AppDynamics at Cisco, says, “we open the doors once a year at Cisco Richardson office to receive and celebrate International Girls in ICT. It is a great day full of activities with local Dallas Fort Worth high school students on all things STEM. It feels amazing to be able to use words that can inspire them, share some thoughts that can provoke them and encourage them follow their dreams.”

Three images side by side of girls participating in an event
Girls in ICT Day activities at Cisco office in Richardson, Texas included a visit to the server center and a look at a Cisco Crisis Response vehicle, as well as time with Cisco volunteers.

In Oslo, Cisco saw 63 attendees from ninth grade classes at a local school who enjoyed presentations from women in tech, four hands-on workshops about product design, how a camera works, different kinds of sensors and a Virtual reality test. They experienced new hologram technology by the Webex team that is being developed in Norway. The girls were super engaged, and asked many questions in the last Q&A panel!

In Perth, Australia, Innovation Central Perth—an industry and research collaboration centre developing tech solutions to business problems—hosted more than 30 attendees at Curtin University who enjoyed presentations from three speakers before joining the International Girls in ICT Day broadcast.

“This was just a glimpse into the diversity in actual work types in Technology and STEAM disciplines there are, get curious and keep learning,” says Alex Lynn, Consulting Engineer at Cisco, and one of the speakers. “The networking afterwards with everyone was a buzz too!”

Two photos side by side of women interacting at an event
Dr Nazanin Mohammad (left), a senior lecturer at Curtin University in Perth, Australia speaks with attendees (right).

And these are just a few of the reactions after 2023’s International Girls in ICT Day event.

Read about last year’s Women Rock-IT Girls in ICT Day event here, and perspectives from global Cisco volunteers at those events.

Women Rock-IT continues to grow and evolve, with events throughout the year. Catch the replay, or see what’s coming up next.


Emma Reid

Global Marketing Manager

Cisco Networking Academy