I believe that a commitment to inclusion and diversity makes companies better. Period. I’m nine months into my career here at Cisco, and that’s one of the biggest takeaways that I didn’t see from the outside. A lot of companies talk the talk, but I’m proud to say that at Cisco, we walk the walk.
One of the ways inclusion and diversity make Cisco better is through a focus on collaboration and the power of teams. As a leader, I try to surround myself with a group of people that have different ideas and different perspectives on how to solve a problem. You generally don’t get that when you have a team that looks just like you, has the same background as you, and has relatively the same experience as you do. Cisco believes in full-spectrum diversity, inclusive of gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, ability, nationality, religion, veteran status, background, and culture. It’s this rich mix of diverse strengths, experiences, and perspectives that makes for better teams and results in ingenuity and innovation.
A key differentiator for Cisco – and what separates this company from the others – is the foundational understanding that the combination of full spectrum diversity, inclusive environments and leadership, and engaged employees leveraging the power of technology to collaborate creates opportunity and possibility for everyone to thrive – within Cisco, in our communities and our society.
So if greater diversity, inclusion, and collaboration are the outcomes we are driving, how can those of us in the Tech industry participate and contribute in a meaningful way? I’ve been impressed by how Cisco is employing education, process, and innovative solutions to move from intention to action to results. In my organization, I believe in a 3-step iterative process:
- Educate myself and my team on why inclusion and diversity matter.
- Make a commitment and take action and implement processes to drive improvement.
- Measure our progress, course-correct steps 1 and 2 as required
Our CEO Chuck Robbins advocates for the importance of diversity both internally and externally. We can see the improvement in the diversity of the Cisco executive leadership team, which is 58% diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, and Cisco publishes its diversity stats on an annual basis. The company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity is also evident in its focus on developing what we call a “Conscious Culture.”
But we know Cisco and the Tech industry as a whole have much more work to do.
I recently attended a Diversity in Tech reception that Cisco held at Mobile World Congress where we brought in external and internal speakers to educate our employees, partners, and customers on the importance of sponsorship. The clear call to action was for everyone in attendance to take The Multiplier Effect Pledge – a movement started by Cisco to encourage every leader to sponsor one extraordinary diverse candidate and challenge their peers to do the same.
Another example of how Cisco prioritizes inclusion is the company’s annual Women of Impact conference. This event is an entire day devoted to the professional development of women, and it takes place in over 100 Cisco sites across 52 countries. Extending Cisco’s brand beyond our employees, the event is open to partners and customers – both women and men.
These are just a couple of examples of the education we do at Cisco to drive awareness and encourage change.
2. Action and Process
Through education, we strive to help people understand why diversity is important, why sponsorship is critical, and what role they need to play to drive change. Little will happen, however, without concrete action and processes. Companies need to hold themselves accountable. Cisco is putting innovative solutions in place to do just that.
The company is committed to pay parity and developed a framework to analyze pay globally to ensure all employees are paid fairly. Another example, our Office of Inclusion and Collaboration has developed a suite of solutions to take advantage of business intelligence in recruiting and hiring and to automate the process of volunteering for and assembling diverse interview panels.
But as individuals, we must also hold ourselves accountable. The only thing that will drive change is action and process, and as leaders, we are responsible for ensuring actions occur and putting better processes in place.
3. Measure and Course Correct
I’m a big believer in continuous improvement. We are always learning about what works and what doesn’t. We make decisions based on the best available data we have, but maybe we didn’t have all the data. Perhaps we made the wrong assumptions. It’s OK. Hard problems aren’t solved overnight. We need to stay diligent. Measure and analyze the results on a regular cadence. Take our learnings and apply those back to steps 1 and 2 -and always look to improve.
This is my view on how we drive better inclusion and diversity on our teams. I’d love to hear your thoughts too!
The impact in the field of Cisco's commitment to walk the walk, and build more diverse teams, has been profound, and immediate. A diverse sales force is far better equipped to understand, and meet the needs of, a diverse customer and partner community. I believe the focus on equity and inclusion have also been essential elements in Cisco's rise to number six on Fortune's Best Places to Work list.
I see that you are very serious about your commitment to diversity. I looked up your company and I do not see that you are a part of the DisabilityIn program. Does your company have other measures to attract and accommodate employees that have disabilities?
Thanks for your comment Janel. Cisco is committed to full-spectrum diversity – including employees with disabilities. Our Connected Disabilities Awareness Network (CDAN) group promotes inclusion by raising awareness of conditions that may limit people’s activities, guiding Cisco employees with disabilities or whose family members have disabilities, and helping to improve employees’ confidence in interacting with colleagues with disabilities. In addition, we offer accessibility training for all managers, and partner with the Disability Matters North America Conference, which brings together corporate executives to learn best and next practices for mainstreaming disability in the global workplace. In 2015, we launched Cisco LifeChanger, an innovative application of our video and collaboration technology that helps people with disabilities transcend location, mobility, and other challenges to overcome employment barriers. We’re also proud to say we scored a 90% on the Disability Equality Index in 2018, making us a DEI Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion. Cisco believes that inclusion, diversity, and collaboration make us a more innovative and successful company, and we continue to look for ways to attract and accommodate employees of all abilities
Shaun – thanks for laying out your vision. Diversity within culture starts at the top!
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