This post was written by guest blogger Emma Reid, marketing manager for Cisco Corporate Affairs, Asia-Pacific region.

In 2012, 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 engineering degrees in Australia were less than 2%, leaving young women ill-prepared for the technology-driven jobs of the future.

Coupled with our drive to attract female talent at Cisco, we sought a way to inspire girls toward technology careers. And while we knew it would be a huge challenge, it’s one we gladly pursued. So was born the Women Rock-IT program, which is now in its fourth year and seeing tremendous results.

Late last year, I  co-author of a booked 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.

As part of our Women Rock-IT efforts this year, we had a record turnout, with 183,894 viewers over five events. Our participants consumed 55,085 minutes of content and positively reacted on social media 3,203 times. The on-demand videos were shared 285 times, and as a direct result of the Women Rock-IT program, we saw 9,600 enrollments into exploratory and career-ready courses offered by Cisco Networking Academy. 65% of those enrolling in NetAcad courses were new students.

Since 2014, Women Rock-IT has held 20 events with 25 female speakers, publishing 17 blog posts, leading to 13,429 course enrollments, and reaching a global audience of 243,894 people.

The series aims to motivate young women to consider STEM subjects by hearing directly from inspirational female role models, either in person or via virtual broadcast. Our last cohort of speakers did just that, not only giving our viewers stories of inspiration, but valuable information they can take into their future careers.

Our first two speakers paved the way with groundbreaking, innovative technology. Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, Founder of Project Vive and the winner of Cisco’s 2017 Global Problem Solver Challenge, shared with us how she developed affordable communication devices that utilize small movements from the knee, wrist, or finger to give a voice to the voiceless.

Kathy Gong, the Founder of Wafa Games, started her journey to inspire at the age of 10. She was the youngest national chess master in China, and at 17, won a full scholarship to Columbia University. By 26, she’d left her family’s home in China’s Sichuan province, moved to Beijing, and founded her first company. She shared with us her latest venture, Wafa Games, and taught us about emotional technology and its exciting capabilities.

Our second session was all about converting the physical world to digital reality. Dr. Sarah Cooper and her team of AWS Internet of Things (IoT) engineers shared with us the unique challenges they faced when building AWS-scale IoT services. The panel challenged viewers to think about the problems they’d solve when IoT gives everyone access to the world’s untapped information.

Our third session was led by Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen, CEO and Founder of Tech Girls Movement. Jenine was joined by her tech superheroes, the Sun Fun Team, whose motto is to “fry your eggs and not your skin.” These amazing high school girls designed an app to help kids understand the importance of sun safety in a fun way by blending gamification techniques with educational facts.

Our fourth session opened our eyes to the world of cybercrime with Sandra Ragg, Head of the Office of the Prime Minister’s Cyber Security Special Adviser, and our very own cyber professionals here at Cisco, Samantha Symond and Kate Finazzo. This fearless panel of three taught us to think like hackers, defend like ninjas, and encouraged us to consider joining the fight against cybercrime as part of our careers.

To end the fourth series of Women Rock-IT on a high, we flew into the world of drones with Mahla Kafami, Engineer, and Rebecca Clements, Executive Manager of Jar Aerospace. They shared how drones are being used to survey dangerous environments and save lives, solving problems only possible with remote technology.

And finally, we were joined by Jude Ower, Founder of Playmob, a games-for-good organization that connects charities and socially conscious brands with gamers. Playmob has aligned itself with the United Nation’s global goals for 2030 and is using playable ads to push those messages out to people in a way that engages them. Jude also created a game as part of a campaign to commemorate World Oceans Day, raising awareness about plastic pollution and coral reef degradation in the ocean.

I think it’s safe to say we learned a lot over the past year about the technologies innovative women are using to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Our fifth series will launch on September 25th, featuring a lineup of new speakers who will continue to inspire our next generation of global problem solvers to 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 learn how you can get behind Women Rock-IT and amplify the program, contact us. To learn more about Women Rock-IT, visit our website.



Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco