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Texas Conference for Women: An Empowering Partnership

#CiscoInspiredWoman will be a hashtag reverberating throughout social media spheres this week as 6,500 attendees experience what I call, “Moments that Matter”, at the Conference for Women (CFW) in Austin, Texas. Cisco is the Exclusive Networking Partner of CFW for the fourth year in row, has 90 attendees and six speakers (three women and three men) at the Texas event, which aligns with our commitment to build and empower a more inclusive, diverse and collaborative culture.

The Texas Conference for Women on Thursday kicks off a series of three more in successive months that will be held in Pennsylvania, MassachusettsTexas CFW and California, collectively expected to attract about 27,000 women dedicated to personal and professional growth. We will have a major presence at all of them.

We are ramping up our partnerships with organizations like CFW to empower and equip women and other underrepresented minorities with skills needed to advance in the workplace. Such partnerships not only help us to leverage diversity to spark greater innovations and outcomes for our customers, but also to attract a full spectrum of the best talent to join our increasingly vibrant workplace.

Our partnerships, combined with a number of internal leadership programs for women and Texas CWF Cisco Speakers Tableother minorities, is part of a holistic approach to create an environment in which everyone can feel welcomed, respected, valued, and heard. In effect, to have a seat at the table.

Inclusion and Diversity Starts at the Top

This starts at the top. Cisco is fortunate to have a CEO who not only champions the value of inclusion and diversity, but also walks the talk. In one of his first actions as incoming CEO, Chuck Robbins formed a next-generation Executive Leadership Team to help chart Cisco’s direction.

We have made a lot of progress at Cisco to advance women and other minorities, but total, true transformation has not been realized yet throughout industry. That’s why we’re building a first-of-its-kind framework using digital analytics to identify our gaps, next-generation systems, practices and tools as well as areas of opportunity. I will detail these inspiring programs in future blogs after our Corporate Social Responsibility Report is published before the end of this year.

All this provides context for why we’re so excited to be partnering so deeply with CFW and other organizations committed like us to inclusion, diversity and collaboration. I have benefitted immeasurably from such programs and I have urged all Cisco attendees to take full advantage of CFW’s programs and networks to create Moments that Matter.

I can attest that deeply engaging with partners like CFW is one more essential thread that weaves into a mosaic of different perspectives, backgrounds and approaches that can accelerate exponential results for our customers, partners and employees.

What programs have you found most effective in advancing diversity and gender representation in the workplace?


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Define Your Future @Cisco

I am looking forward to the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference, Oct 14-16 2015, Houston, Texas.

From Cisco Women in Cybersecurity to extraordinary software developers and inspiring executive I invite you to join us at Cisco to invent together.

Monique Morrow

Intercloud, security, and IoE are all areas that present massive opportunity for re-invention and innovation. The need for enhanced security is real Read More »

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A Better Way to Network for Women?

“Networking is my idea of hell.”

These are the exact words spoken by a woman attendee at a recent event where I gave a talk about the importance of networking.

Her sentiments are echoed by many professional women who have experienced a traditional networking approach, which is:

a) based on entering a crowded room full of strangers and making small talk

b) scheduled on evenings and weekends, making it impossible to fit in around family commitments and

c) centred on male-oriented activities like rugby and golf

No wonder so many women shudder when they’re told they need to “network” in order to advance their careers. What’s more alarming is that this approach doesn’t even work for us. A recent HBR article, Why Networking More is Bad Advice For Women,” dissects several research studies which prove that standard approaches to getting ahead fail women – and can even backfire. The article’s author, Sarah Green Carmichael, concludes: “To me, the upshot of all of this research is increasingly clear: we need to stop telling women to follow a male playbook.”

What if women rewrote the playbook?

Clearly, there has to be a better way. But what does “good” networking look like? How can we make it more palatable to – and productive for – professional women. Here are five strategies that have worked for me:

1. Start with giving

The key to successful networking for women is adapting a completely different mindset: one that is based on giving vs. getting.   The famous law of reciprocity! A Fast Company article, “A Networking Paradigm Shift: Focus on Giving Not Taking,” explains it quite well: Networking from a giving rather than a getting perspective is “a much more empowered way to think about your career: It forces you to realize that you are not a needy person who has to rely on others to succeed, and focuses on the many things you have to offer the world.”

2. Join a women’s networking group

By design, many women-centric networking groups provide a supportive environment and operate according to the “give vs. get” philosophy. At Cisco, I’m the global and EMEAR co-lead for Connected Women, a global community at Cisco formed by volunteers to attract, develop, retain, and celebrate talented women as part of a competitive and diverse workforce.  It isn’t an “HR initiative” – it’s run by women who all have a day job and who give up their time to proactively share experiences and to help and support other women.

Another terrific women’s networking resource is WeAreTheCity, a website and organisation that promotes female-related networks, events, and training in the UK. In a recent BBC Radio 4 interview, WeAreTheCity’s Founder Vanessa Vallely offered this advice:   “Don’t put too much emphasis on the word networking. It’s the art of having a conversation with someone and being inquisitive and getting to know them.”

3. Embrace digital networking

Many women who don’t enjoy traditional in-person networking are absolutely daunted by digital networking. But this need not be the case – especially if you take a “what can I give/what can I learn” stance.

Using social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook is a brilliant way to surround yourself with supportive, varied, and incredibly knowledgeable people –not just people who can “deliver.” Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks, has just published a great article “Who’s afraid of Digital Networking? Women?”. She advises us “what works in-person also works online.  So when you approach the social world, put aside your fears and misconceptions and remember that there’s a person behind every worthwhile social media account”.

In fact, a diverse network may be critical to generating innovative ideas, according to a new recent study on Twitter conducted by MIT’s Sloan School of Management.   Another study, by Facebook’s data team, shows that it’s easier than ever to find and make connections with interesting people – regardless of where in the world they’re located.

The takeaway? People are on social networking platforms because they want to share. There’s very little small talk. And, because you can do it wherever, whenever, it may be a better fit for working mothers.

4. Stay in touch

Everyone has a pre-existing network of colleagues, former classmates, and industry acquaintances. But, like any relationship, your network needs attention in order to thrive. So stay in touch with people – through both physical and virtual means – on a regular basis, not just when you need something.

Connect with people on LinkedIn to see what they’re up to. Have drinks with people you used to work with. Go to your university reunions – or give talks at alumni events. Retain the mind-set of having conversations instead of extracting favours. And remember – treat people well, up and down the food chain. After all, your former employee could be your next boss.

5. Perform random acts of kindness

To be successful at “give-driven” networking, you have to actually care about other people’s success instead of just your own – and you have to show it. Strengthen your network through small, day-to-day acts: help head-hunters when they call, recommend people on LinkedIn, tweet about people’s books or blog posts, send a congratulatory note to someone who received a promotion or started a new job.

This process does not have to be overly time consuming. Keep your finger on your network’s pulse with a service like Newsle (now part of LinkedIn) – it scans your contacts and notifies you when someone you know is “in the news.” Random acts of kindness have a boomerang effect – the goodwill you extend will eventually come back to you.

Where to from here?

Personally, I’ve always placed huge value on networking and have made the effort, even when sometimes I didn’t feel like doing so. The kind of ‘old-style’ networking that is driven by uncomfortable, inconvenient, needs-based transactions quite frankly is my idea of hell too. So let’s invent a new way of networking that doesn’t fill us with dread, based on supportive, dynamic, relationship-building interactions. Sounds much more like my cup of tea. What do you think?

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Carpe Diem – Seize the day! Inspiration from everyday heroes of CEWN: Shubhra Sinha



Anuja SinghGuest Blog and Interview by Anuja Singh 

Welcome to the September edition of our monthly CEWN segment about role models. We all make resolutions and set goals to improve ourselves– but somewhere along the way, life interrupts our plans, we find ourselves juggling different priorities and invariably things get dropped. What you will find in this segment are experiences of some ordinary people who remained focused and went on to achieve extraordinary results. Everyone featured in this series has faced challenges and opportunities that the rest of us can identify with. Let’s draw inspiration from the choices they made and aspire to the outcomes they created.

ShubraShubhra Sinha

Find out more about Shubhra.

Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN): You have had a successful career spanning two different continents – what impact did your formative years have on you? Read More »

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#CiscoChat Seize the Moment and Make your Mark at Grace Hopper

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The Grace Hopper Celebration Conference is upon us once in two weeks in Houston, Texas  and Cisco is proud to be a Diamond Sponsor recognized as a leader in diversity and highlights our continuous commitment to increasing the impact of women in technology.

For the last 13 years, GHC has strived to bring together women technologists to help increase visibility of the valuable contributions of women in computing. This year the conference is expected to have grown to 11,000 attendees from last year’s 7,800 attendees. Inspired by the  legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women In Computing Conference was co-founded by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney in 1994. The idea behind the conference was to catapult the research and career interests of women to the forefront and now it has become one of the world’s largest gatherings for women in computing.

Women and computers

Cisco’s goal of participating Read More »

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