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To the Connected Women of Cisco and Beyond – You are IT – Lead, Connect, Inspire.

July 10, 2017 - 7 Comments

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.

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  1. I have not attended, I hope to one day attend… I love hearing about programs and stories that bring strong, intelligent game changing women to light. Our Director of IT is one of these women, and she is doing a wonderful job making things happen here. Awesome…

  2. I was an attendee and am a Cisco customer. As a woman in the technology field, I truly appreciate that this event lives strong year after year and keeps growing! And Kevin, I love that this year you were able to host. You were motivating, funny and just awesome!

  3. Way to go, Clare!! Awesome what you got rolling!

  4. Great blog Kevin and thanks for hosting! I’ve participated with CEWN for many years as a sponsor, going back to my early days of leadership with Tami Newcombe and you nailed it, this is a great group of professional women and this event is one of the best I attend annually. I would encourage anyone who’s not taking an active role to get involved and make positive difference, so that we truly grow as a company. With 2 young granddaughters coming up, it’s great to see more opportunity for young girls and women emerging!

    • Kevin – thank you for continuing the conversation as you promised you would do! And thank you for hosting and leading this discussion.

    • Mark – you have always been there as a leader, mentor and sponsor. Thank you!

  5. Broader gender diversity, inclusion, and collaboration. That’s the way to go.