As we wrap up Black History Month in the US, it’s a great time to celebrate the progress we’ve made together with the African American leaders who came before us. It also represents an opportunity to focus on cultural awareness and actions needed to develop future African American leaders to create a better future for everyone.
I am honored to work for a company with the vision to focus on corporate social responsibility for many years. These actions have given Cisco the ability to have a straight line of sight on the broad concepts of inclusive futures. In 2020, Cisco took steps in our social justice initiatives to take it to the next level by creating a “Purpose” organization to power an inclusive future for all. Over the coming months and years, you will hear about more programs driven by this purpose. Cisco is mindful of making sure we are measuring actions and results and have created the Purpose Report to enable all to share our advances against our goals.
As a leader in Cisco, my focus is on building and growing the business through our global ecosystem of partners. We responsibly do this and think about how we impact environmental and social factors that are critical for society and drive business outcomes. We must help bridge inequity gaps by using our technology, extended ecosystem, and the expertise of our teams while creating more opportunities for more people and driving change.
We created a framework consisting of 12 Social Justice Beliefs and Actions bound by milestones to deliver impact. My direct involvement is with Action-10: Diversify the Partner Ecosystem. Cisco has committed $50 million over five years to increase the diversity in our partner ecosystem with the formation of the African American Cisco Partner Community (AACPC) initiative. The charter states that we will:
- Increase the number of African American / Black (AA/B) owned technology companies in the Cisco Partner ecosystem
- Increase opportunities to accelerate the financial growth for AA/B owned Partners
- Increase the hiring of AA/B employees into technology and management roles across the entire Partner community
As channel executives, we persistently look for partner groupings that share best practices and form unique loyalties. Which is why it’s no surprise that the AACPC has already started to cross-network and grow our mutual businesses in new ways.
This has led to capturing market trends that complement a Social Justice framework, such as:
1. Bridging The Digital Divide: Lack of connection to digital knowledge and internet infrastructure affects African American individuals, families, and businesses in rural and urban underserved areas. Cisco is a leader in digital connectivity, connecting the unconnected. We are now helping state and local governments build mass-scale multi-use digital infrastructure to close this digital divide. We’re specifically improving higher education institutions like historically black colleges & universities (HBCU), by sponsoring AACPC partners to plan, deploy, and support successful engagements as a part of the HBCU IT Modernization initiative.
2. Making Hybrid Work…Work!: Proximity to diverse talent has long been touted as a limitation in hiring African American resources. Hybrid Work has forever changed that, as work is no longer a place local employees go, rather it’s a thing everyone can experience and working remotely is the new micro-branch.
3. Increased Focus on Supplier Diversity: Customers that have supplier diversity programs are looking at this from the C-suite, not just the technology decision maker. According to Harvard Business Review, an inclusive procurement strategy “widens the pool of potential suppliers and promotes competition in the supply base, which can improve product quality and drive down costs.” Yet, the increase in supplier and procurement diversity can only be balanced with an increase in channel partner diversity. Cisco’s Social Justice framework is unique because not only are we procuring more from diverse suppliers (Action #7), but Cisco is also leading with a partner focus by also investing in diversification of the channel (Action #10).
Cisco’s purpose to power an inclusive future for all is a never-ending journey — overcoming challenges and pursuing new opportunities for our global partner ecosystem.
For more information, please reference these websites:
- If you would like to know more about our Social Justice Actions
- For more information on Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy
- Cisco’s 2021 Purpose Report
I look forward to, and I am excited by, what Cisco is doing for Black History Month, for our global partner communities, and specifically for the emphasis on growing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Visit our African American Cisco Partner Community
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