The pandemic has shown that it can deepen inequities — and create opportunities. Women are disproportionately affected by many of the cultural, economic, and technological shifts the pandemic is accelerating. But even as many women navigate their new roles as full-time caregivers, ad hoc teachers, and bread winners, digitization is providing a unique opportunity for women to rise.

There is a saying that “when one door closes, another window opens.” At Cisco Networking Academy, we see that today’s students are seizing opportunities to upskill and retrain, showing that learning can take place anywhere and at any time. This is just the ticket for women who need more options and greater flexibility to fit learning into their full days and broad responsibilities.

Learning skills and filling skills gaps

Camilla Ngala, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and security operations center analyst
Camilla Ngala, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and security operations center analyst

The world desperately needs more tech workers. A McKinsey study tells us that the demand for tech workers around the globe will rise 55 percent by 2030. And globally, less than half of women work outside of the home, as compared to 74 percent of men. These women are perfectly positioned to fill the skills gap in the tech industry — and now they can get the training they need to do it.

Cisco Networking Academy provides the opportunity for women to learn valuable tech skills, at their own pace, at home. Networking Academy is a skills-to-job program, providing courses in introductory to advanced networking, network automation and programmability, cybersecurity, IoT, digital literacy, and entrepreneurship. These courses can lead to great jobs that can now also be done at home.

Camilla Ngala knows what it’s like to juggle many responsibilities and competing priorities. She immigrated to the United States from Cameroon with her two children, with dreams of working in cybersecurity. Enrolling in a local community college, she began taking Networking Academy courses while working as a clinical laboratory technician. Today, she is a security operations center analyst at a cybersecurity company.

Ashley Ortega, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and technical project manager
Ashley Ortega, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and technical project manager

Ashley Ortega, in Costa Rica, heard about Cisco Networking Academy at a Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) event. She was so inspired, she began walking to a school that offered Cisco Certified Network Associate courses — because the bus in her area went to a school which did not offer those courses. Today, she supports her family by working as a technical project manager at Cisco.

Minju Kwak, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and cybersecurity associate
Minju Kwak, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and cybersecurity associate

Miles away in South Korea, Minju Kwak does not back away from a challenge. While in college pursuing her bachelor’s degree in networking, which embedded Networking Academy courses into the curriculum, she witnessed many of her female students struggling because of the ‘feeling of male preference’ in the hiring process. Determined, she powered through completing all the reading and labs, which were in English at the time – not her native language. Today, Minju is a cybersecurity associate at a company that specializes in solutions to protect personally-identifying information.

A viable career choice

Over the past 23 years in 180 countries, Cisco Networking Academy has trained more than 12.6 million people like Camilla, Ashley, and Minju. In 2020, 26 percent of those students were female. Greater China had the highest percentage of female participants at 34 percent. In the Middle East, which has the lowest participation of women in the labor force in the world, 29 percent of participants were women. Any teenager or adult with an internet connection can participate in Networking Academy classes, regardless of technical skill level or background.

The right training gives women an opportunity to earn a good salary and achieve economic independence, but it’s not just training that they need. Women and girls first need to be able to see themselves in tech roles before they will pursue training and tech jobs.

I know this to be true because I have lived it myself. When I was a young girl, I had the opportunity to visit a college campus and see women pursuing careers in science and technology. Because I saw other women doing it, I knew I could do it.

The world is changing quickly, and self-paced online learning and distance learning are opening a whole new world of possibility for women.

Celebrating Girls in ICT Day

Together with its employees, Cisco is celebrating International Girls in ICT Day around the world on April 22, 2021 to motivate girls and women to consider science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.

Cisco’s International Girls in ICT Day celebration is a free, interactive, virtual event that aims to inspire girls and women by:

  • Exposing them to the opportunities STEM skills can bring to their futures, including career pathways, career attainment, and advancement.
  • Hearing from successful female role models in a variety of IT-related roles, ranging from social entrepreneurs to Cisco employees.
  • Accessing free enrollment into Cisco Networking Academy courses.

The sessions are delivered through Cisco’s Women Rock-IT program and 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. Since 2014, Cisco’s Women Rock-IT program has attracted 1.7M viewers and featured 76 female role models during 41 live Cisco TV broadcasts. As a direct result of the Women Rock-IT program 691,803 girls have enrolled in technology courses with Networking Academy.

In addition to the live broadcasts, Cisco – through its Networking Academy program – will partner with an estimated 250 educators globally to run a two-week Learn-A-Thon, from April 1 to April 22, with the aim of training 10,000 students with in-demand cybersecurity skills.

To help girls and women realize that anyone can code, we are hosting a Facebook Live event for them to see for themselves and have some fun! The idea is to show what is takes to create the programs and apps they spend so much time using.

Learn more about upcoming Women Rock-IT events and opportunities.



Laura Quintana

Vice President and General Manager

Cisco Networking Academy