Innovation and disruption are marquee words at every tech conference these days. There are lots of ways that tech companies tap into the innovation ecosystem: start-up accelerators, acquisitions, internal innovation challenges, and customer innovation centers. But one sure way to increase the innovation power of an organization is to increase full-spectrum diversity at every level. Innovative ideas begin with a team that has diverse work experiences, different skills, and different perspectives based on race, gender, orientation, ability, and age. One tech conference that shows the kind of innovation that comes with celebrating diverse voices and increasing access to leadership roles in STEM fields is the Lesbians Who Tech (LWT) San Francisco Summit, which Cisco sponsored this year.

In March, I joined a team of twenty Cisco employees at this conference – the sixth event of its kind, which brought together over 6,000 queer women, transgender, and gender-non-conforming individuals to share ideas and experiences, gain new knowledge, and increase the visibility of women and LGBTQ+ people in technology. The conference feels different than any other tech conference. The speaker list featured 50% women of color, 20% black or Latinx, and 10% gender non-conforming or transgender—possibly the most diverse speaking body in the world. There were lots of high fives, great style, and sessions on everything from disruptive tech and career advancement, to the political debate around data privacy.

This year, I had the honor of speaking in the Future Trends and Innovation category on day two of the summit. Alongside stories of drone-operated search and rescue to next generation vehicle automation, I shared how Cisco is exploring blockchain technology to address the challenges of ethical mineral sourcing for all the components that go into our products. This project began as a collaboration between the Cisco Hyper Innovation Living Lab, Cisco Supply Chain Sustainability, Cisco Security and Trust, and our customers—a truly diverse coalition of stakeholders that brought together different perspectives, resources, and points of view! This type of collaboration across boundaries is a special kind of innovation secret sauce. I was honored to share this Cisco innovation story and to represent Cisco’s LGBTQ+ community at Lesbians Who Tech.

Some of the Cisco family attendees

I am proud to work at a company like Cisco where innovation, positive social impact, and celebration of our diversity is supported and encouraged. I am proud to be part of the PRIDE Employee Resource Organization that sponsored such an amazing, inclusive event like Lesbians Who Tech, where I see people like me changing the face of our industry. Diversity and inclusion accelerate innovation, and Cisco’s commitment to it make Cisco a great place to work.


Joanna Dillon

Innovation Outcomes Manager

CHILL Services - US