As I prepared to participate in Accenture’s International Women’s Day in a session titled, “The Equality Advantage,” I reflected on the events in my life and career that led me to this point.

Growing up, discussions in my family were never about gender. They involved ability and effort. I also had a strong mother who often said, “The smartest person in the room may not be talking, so you need to listen.” I know my mom is proud that I not only raised my hand to get involved in the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network event last year, but also became the first man to host the event which draws a network of Cisco customers, partners, and employees together to make a difference for women in IT.  Coincidentally, the event also landed on my Mom’s birthday, so I recorded a five second clip of the audience wishing her a “Happy Birthday.”  She was thrilled!

Diversity, inclusion and collaboration are engrained into Cisco’s culture. In fact, in 2014 we launched the first-of-its-kind Office of Inclusion and Collaboration to help drive this focus into the very DNA of the company. And it starts at the top, where four out of 10 of our board of directors are women. Cisco’s executive team of 13 people includes five women. On my own leadership team, three of my seven direct reports are women, including Clare Markovits, who has been instrumental in starting several women’s groups across Cisco.

Most recently, Cisco celebrated International Women’s Day at its annual Women of Impact conference that brings together more than 15,000 Cisco employees, partners, and customers from over 47 countries to honor fearless women and highlight areas that still need improvement. The event also involved young women from Cisco’s Girls Power Tech initiative. These events just scratch the surface of Cisco’s commitment to inclusion and collaboration.

So, how did all of this manifest itself in my comments at Accenture’s event? Here are the key points I voiced to attendees.

  • Don’t just admire the problem, act now – Events like Cisco’s Women of Impact conference and Accenture’s International Women’s Day are critical, but they should be checkpoints of progress rather than just points in time when we only acknowledge the challenge. Act now by adding “equality, inclusion, and diversity” as an agenda item for your next staff meeting, brownbag, or employee gathering.
  • Hold a continuous dialog – Overcoming the lack of inclusion and diversity will only be solved when we have daily conversations about it. Otherwise, we only contribute to the problem. It is one thing to care about equality, inclusion, and diversity, it is another to embed it, and make it a part of your personal and professional lives.
  • Talent does not discriminate – The talent needed to solve today’s most pressing challenges is not reserved for just men! People of all races, religions, genders, age and sexual orientations have the knowledge, gifts, and experiences that, when brought together in the spirit of collaboration, can solve what we believed to be impossible just a short time before. To help in this area, Cisco’s utilizes its Diverse Talent Accelerators, a digital suite of solutions which leverage powerful analytics to more accurately size and map the talent market and adjust searches to target diverse candidates.
  • Large companies must lead – While everyone and every company has a role to play, large companies like Cisco and Accenture have the resources and talent to set the example for others to follow. Further, equality, inclusion, and diversity are not reserved within company confines. When one company leads, everyone benefits.
  • Understand your power and take it – As an individual, you have power. Take advantage of the power you have in your sphere of influence to make a difference. By doing so, you will empower others to change. At Cisco, we encourage every employee to do four things to ensure that inclusion, diversity and collaboration are part of our culture:
    • Take the Multiplier Effect pledge
    • Set your own success metrics and go for them
    • Seek a mentor or become one
    • Learn a new skill or take that training you’ve been postponing

From a digitization point of view, I firmly believe digital transformation requires everyone in the organization to perform at their best and be a part of the solution and change. When everyone participates, everyone wins. Accenture’s latest research, “When She Rises, We All Rise,” backs this up. According to the report, “Leaders of businesses and organizations have the power to close the gender gap in pay and career advancement. The research shows that creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential and uncovers the key drivers of a workplace culture in which everyone can advance and thrive.”

It is clear that equality, diversity, and inclusion are critical to success, especially in a world where things are changing so quickly. We simply can’t afford to miss what the “smartest person in the room” has to say, so now is the time to leverage these opportunities to amplify this conversation.

How is your company infusing inclusion and diversity into its culture? And how is this helping your digital transformation?



Kevin Bandy

No Longer with Cisco