My first few versions of this post looked a lot different. Six weeks ago, our incredible Women of Cisco employee group, of which I am very proud to serve as the executive sponsor, approached me about writing the cumulative piece in our four-part Women of Impact series. I was thrilled to participate and to stand alongside three women I really admire: Rola Dagher, Vicki Batka, and Wendy Mars. My original plan was to write about the importance of owning your narrative, something that I’ve been passionate about for years. But that was six weeks ago, and the world has changed quite a bit since then.

As we all continue to adjust to our new normal, Coronavirus is the lens that we all look through. It’s the prism that colors everything right now. And so, while the ultimate purpose of this post is to celebrate some amazing women, and to thank the Women of Cisco group for an incredible month, it’s important to ground the conversation in the reality of the moment. As Thomas Freidman wrote recently in the New York Times, there’s a new historical dividing line: Before Coronavirus (B.C.) and After Coronavirus (A.C.). We’re a long way from the A.C. part of the timeline, of course, but it does invite us to reflect on what’s important, what we need to change, and what we want to keep.

I’ve been involved in women advocacy groups throughout my career, and I’ve found that three themes are concurrent through all of that work: courage, empathy, and equality. Having the courage to stand up for yourself, to stand up for others, to ask for help when you need it, and to offer help when you can provide it. To truly listen – not just hear but listen – to people’s stories and then work on seeing things from their perspective. And working through our conscious and unconscious biases to ensure we are giving equal value and equal weight to each of those perspectives.

This is oversimplifying things a bit, but when we look at the challenges facing us today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, those three themes have never been more important. As the world shifts under our feet on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis, we are going to need courage, empathy, and equality more than ever.

I’ll add one more. Six weeks ago, the Women of Cisco team showed me the plan for the month and all of the amazing workshops and activities we had scheduled. It was all about community, and the power of coming together this International Women’s Month. Six weeks later, our need for a sense of community is even more critical, albeit virtual.

Thank you to the Women of Cisco team and for everyone who came with us on this month-long journey. Whether it was Rola imploring us to “Use the power you have to empower and inspire others,” Vicki showing us the magic that happens when a spirit of giving back is woven into the corporate culture, or Wendy advising us to take stock of what gives us energy and what drains it, there was no shortage of wisdom and inspiration this month.

Pierre Trudeau, the former PM of Canada (and yes, Justin’s father), once said, “diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.” I’m proud to work for a company that has made that choice, and to sponsor a group of women who hold us to it. Thanks for a great month. Thank you for sharing, and as always, for showing up for yourselves and for each other. In a challenging time, you gave us something to celebrate.


Gerri Elliott

EVP and Chief Customer and Partner Officer