In April this year, Cisco sponsored the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference held at the San Jose Marriott. This was part of a concerted effort to advance and attract women in technical and leadership roles in the technology industry.
At the beginning of our partnership with IEEE we asked ourselves: “What is it going to take to change an industry, to give every woman in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) a seat at the innovation table?” We discussed the equality needed to pursue opportunities, innovate, and to change the world. We looked within ourselves, at our peers, around our company, and what we found was something already familiar to us. At Cisco, innovation starts with culture—a culture of inclusion, regardless of who you are or where you are in your career. The people we are and the people we surround ourselves with define the culture we live in. It is a culture of inclusion that allows us to exploit our potential as individuals, as teams as innovators, as a company and as an industry.
We wanted to share the Cisco culture with those attending the IEEE WIE ILC event, and to put it mildly, the vibe was incredible. The event has become memorable with attendance more than doubling year over year. Attendees from around the globe and from different industries heard from thought provoking speakers about innovation, career advancement tips, what drives them, what they were passionate about and what continues to make them successful. The event provided an opportunity to share a glimpse of the culture that we at Cisco thrive in, day-in and day-out— Executives and engineers from all levels at Cisco attended the event to connect with the women of IEEE and shared their experiences and the type of opportunities that exist for women to innovate and excel at Cisco.
This is an evolution, not a revolution! Closing the gender gap will not be accomplished in one event, it will take much more, and Cisco is committed to making it happen with strong support and a commitment from our executive leadership. In his closing keynote Pankaj Patel discussed how important it is to orchestrate an inclusive culture citing gender diversity as key to innovation and Cisco’s future success. Pankaj discussed his support for changing behaviors and perceptions to ensure that gender is never a requisite for having a voice at the table. He has enlisted his leadership team to eliminate hidden bias and get actively engaged in sponsoring women within the engineering organization. Pankaj believes this is not just right thing to do, but is essential, and is great for business. Pankaj challenged the women of IEEE to:
- Not hold back and continue to speak up!
- Replace negative voices in your head with positive ones
- Take risks on opportunities that may not seem like the obvious next step.
During her keynote, Rebecca Jacoby, Senior Vice President of Operations at Cisco, presented on Empowerment, Connecting, and Inspiration. She reflected on empowering “you”, presented tips on how to know yourself and how to set yourself up for success. She asked each attendee to find what inspires them and challenged them to view themselves as a leader. At Cisco, Rebecca Jacoby is a great example of a woman who is changing the world by making a difference in the technology industry while being an inspiration to others.
Cisco’s goal of participating in the conference was to connect with women engineers, to discuss their inspirations, and to share a vision of how we can change the world together. What we came away with was more than we had hoped. We attempted to bottle a drop of passion and drive of women in STEM disciplines at this event:
Our journey continues to attract and retain women in the technology industry. Those of us who already work at Cisco believe we have the ingredients for fostering innovation and our culture is primed for the next wave of women innovators in the industry.
So check Cisco out and pull up a chair to the Cisco innovation table! There is a spot for any and all women who are inspired to change the world! And most importantly – at Cisco, from the top executive to the entry-level engineer, we know the power of women engineers is definitely “The Incalculable Difference” at Cisco. Come to Cisco and Make Your Mark!