Last week I was fortunate to attend the Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston. In its 39th year, Simmons is considered the premiere professional development event for women. Each year thousands of women, and a small contingent of men, gather together to learn, share, and exchange ideas. The theme of this year’s conference was Disrupt the Ordinary. The powerhouse line up of speakers included Gretchen Carlson, Nely Galan and former first lady, Michelle Obama. Each speaker shared personal and inspiring stories.

At Cisco, we value the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Our commitment spans our entire organization. We have one of the most diverse executive leadership teams in the technology industry because we value and encourage diversity of thought and points of view. For Simmons, we sent close to 300 employees to empower, inspire and bring back learnings that will support a diverse culture.

Personally, this was my 5th year supporting this initiative and I participated on a panel, “Men Who Get It.” The panel discussion, led by Helen Drinan, President of Simmons College, included advocating early in education and looking at the gender equality issue in the workplace and in society. It was a lively conversation with an engaged audience and during the session, a significant question came up, “Do Men Really Get it?”

“Do Men Really Get it?”

So, do men really get it? While I can’t speak for all men, I can say that in my years in business and supporting this initiative, we have made progress. How do we continue to accelerate that progress? First, it takes education and being brave enough to have candid conversations. And it takes action.

That’s one reason why I’m so committed to the Multiplier Effect initiative. This is an effort to change the equation and accelerate the pipeline of diverse talent. It is a personal commitment of sponsorship and advocacy. And the part that speaks most to me—it’s about encouraging our peers to get on board. So, we are in fact, multiplying the number of people who are disrupting the cycle, to truly make an impact.

As the conference came to a close, we left feeling energized and even more committed to Cisco’s great culture of inclusion. We have made great strides in building an environment where everyone can flourish. But we still have more work to do and are excited to make an even bigger impact.


Joe Cozzolino

Senior Vice President

Cisco Services