Every person has a few key events in their professional lives they will remember forever. Being the first male to host this year’s Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN) event is one of these moments for me. If you’re not familiar with CEWN, it is a network of Cisco customers, partners, and employees joining together to make a difference for women in IT. Their focus is on identifying the challenges and opportunities of today to truly drive change to empower the women of tomorrow.
I was in awe and truly inspired by the presence of so many smart, motivated, energetic, insightful, and connected women and men who are all involved with Cisco’s success. The women of CEWN are truly a powerful force and delivered on the mission of this year’s event which was to lead, connect and inspire.
Shari Slate, Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer at Cisco, and Patrice D’Eramo, VP, Americas Marketing at Cisco talk with me about accelerating diversity
For those of you who were unable to attend, my remarks focused on inclusion and diversity, change, and teams as they relate to digital transformation. While we, as a company and industry, have acknowledged the issues of inclusion and diversity, we have not done enough to solve them. Many of us spend too much time admiring the problem rather than fundamentally changing our behaviors. Importantly, change happens when it’s an ongoing process. Moreover, change is required of everyone and needs involvement from all levels.
Inclusion and diversity are about being a true team, where everyone plays a different, but important, position bringing their various strengths, perspectives, and value. While everyone plays a different role, we all have the opportunity to define how well we perform and how we help the team achieve its goals.
I also related how it’s not up to me or you to define inclusion and diversity. We shouldn’t set boundaries on the issue, but instead start with your inclusive and diverse team to define the basis for what will make it thrive. For example, the Cisco People Deal doesn’t tell you what to do, but empowers you to think. I’m especially proud of the CDO Women’s group, started by my Chief of Staff, Clare Markovits, which has taken a lead role in developing the next generation of leaders to tackle topics of broader gender diversity, inclusion, and collaboration throughout Cisco and on an ongoing basis.
We also discussed the power of sponsorship to accelerate the pipeline of the extraordinary diverse talent in the tech industry. To clarify, when we talk about sponsorship, it’s different than mentorship. Sponsors have three key attributes. They:
- Believe in your potential and are prepared to take a bet on you
- Have a voice at the table and are willing to be your champion
- Provide you the air cover you need to take the risks necessary to succeed.
At no time in Cisco’s history are the members of CEWN more needed than they are today. As Cisco, our partners, and our customers become digital businesses, we must literally change everything we do and how we do it. This means everyone needs to be involved.
If you are not already involved with CEWN, please participate. We need your strength. We need your experience. We need your energy. We need your ideas. We need you to lead, connect, and inspire. By working together, you literally are IT!
If you attended CEWN or are a woman in technology, please share your thoughts and perspectives.