My eleven-year old daughter came to me a few months ago claiming an intense dislike for Robotics. As any other parent can tell you, her avowal made me terribly sad. More so since she claimed Robotics was a “boy-thing.” I told her, as I confess here, that I am certainly no authority on women and technology nor do I like to sound preachy. I am, however, a parent, a husband and a leader of a large engineering team, and in that capacity I would like to discuss how we can all work together to create the next generation of technology role models – role models who make it effortless and exciting for children like my daughter to look forward to a fulfilling career in technology.
At Cisco, we pride ourselves on the network we have created. It is the collective work of thousands of engineers spanning several decades. I often tell people I am proud to work at Cisco because I honestly believe we are making a significant impact on the world. It is with the same conviction that I tell people we must endeavor to level the playing field for women in technology and engineering – not just at Cisco, but everywhere in the industry.
I was recently invited to a gathering of Cisco women leaders in technology since I am the champion for Inclusion & Collaboration within the software engineering group. I had the opportunity to share with them my thoughts on how women engineers can win the corporate marathon. To me, it is all about cross-training the professional muscle and owning one’s career. By this I mean, taking a holistic approach to building a career and remembering three important “As”:
- Accepting Reality: Understanding that stereotypes exist and learning how to get around them. In fact, using them to your advantage.
- Availing Resources: Unabashedly tapping into an organization’s resources and cultivating managers.
- Advantage You: Seizing opportunities, adopting mentors, and building teams.
Inclusion & Collaboration is a top-of-the-mind priority for Cisco and our leadership team. And we are making progress. We have implemented comprehensive I&C approaches, including executive mentoring programs, providing a soft landing for women returning to the workforce after a break, and hardcoding diversity into our hiring and people development plans. We also make every effort to weave I&C training and workshops into our work lives on an on-going basis. All to ensure we are fostering our existing female talent and supporting the next generation of tech role models.
We are gaining ground, but we still have a long way to go to achieve our goal of greater gender representation in high-tech. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can be solved overnight. But if each of us can serve as a role model for just one young female who aspires to a career in technology, we can make a significant contribution. And I offer there is no better time than international women’s day to pledge our support and commitment to increasing female role models in technology.
I’m happy to report, that either as a result of our sustained conversations or her own nature, my daughter stuck with her Robotics class and went on to represent her school at the state championships!
I’d love to trade ideas on how we can all become technology role models for the next generation.