In the dynamic landscape of the technology sector, gender diversity remains a significant challenge. The noticeable absence of women, particularly in senior leadership roles, underscores an ongoing struggle within the industry. Their underrepresentation isn’t just a matter of statistics; it’s about the untapped wealth of ideas, insights, and contributions women inherently bring to the table.

While discussions often revolve around attracting female talent, the spotlight must also illuminate the critical areas of retention and development for existing female professionals. Not only does this approach hold intrinsic value, but it also proves to be more cost-effective. Considering the expense associated with recruiting senior leaders externally, investing in the growth and advancement of current female talent emerges as a strategic imperative.

By nurturing and empowering existing female talent, organizations can fortify their female leadership pipelines and establish robust succession plans. It’s a proactive step towards fostering an inclusive culture and ensuring that the brightest talent, regardless of gender, ascend to positions of influence and senior leadership.

Our Commitment

Cisco’s Partnering for Purpose initiative is one way we, as Cisco employees, bring our commitment to power an inclusive future for all to life. We leverage our technology, our people, our expertise in collaboration with our channel partners to share best practices and amplify positive impact–on people, our communities, and our planet.

The Bridge the Gap program

A notable best practice is the Bridge the Gap program, the brainchild of Justine McDermott during her tenure as a senior sales leader in the Cisco United Kingdom and Ireland (UKI) partner organization. Acutely aware of the gender disparities in the tech sector, Justine collaborated with Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a global talent consulting company, to develop a leadership program aimed at empowering future female leaders within Cisco’s partner community. Bridge the Gap provides participants with a rich learning experience to address career barriers. The program has seen remarkable success in the Cisco UKI partner community.

In 2023, Cisco’s Partnering for Purpose initiative brought Bridge the Gap’s innovative approach to a global audience, extending its impact worldwide.

Paying it forward

Amplifying the Bridge the Gap program, Partnering for Purpose created a new (sponsorship) model for Cisco partners to contribute and support their industry peers in developing and retaining their female talent.

The inaugural Partnering for Purpose cohort (June 2023) was sponsored, not at all incidentally, by World Wide Technology (WWT). Elevating women in leadership is an important priority for them, which is why they have been involved in every cohort since its UKI inception in 2019. WWT has directly witnessed the program’s impact and seen tangible success within their own organization. All participants from the first two UKI cohorts who were employed at WWT have either transitioned to new roles within WWT or have earned promotions within the organization since completing the program.

Sponsoring the first global Partnering for Purpose cohort enabled WWT to offer eight places to women from within WWT, grant three free places to women from their chosen charities, and significantly reduce the program’s cost for four Cisco partners.

“Our position as sponsor allowed us to support our women within WWT, those in the wider community, improve our employer brand both internally and externally, and ensures a steady pipeline of internal female candidates to apply for leadership roles. I encourage other Cisco partners to sponsor future cohorts.” – Stacey Kingshott, Global Senior Director, HR World Wide Technology


As we reflect on International Women’s Day, let’s consider the progress made, the setbacks faced, and the considerable distance left to traverse.

The journey to equity requires constant moving forward. Let’s keep our hands on the plough and continue to advance this impactful and essential work. Let’s commit to bridging the gap.

If you would like to be part of the Bridge the Gap Program or know more about Partnering for Purpose, please email partneringforpurpose@cisco.com

Learn more about Partnering for Purpose and how you can get involved:

Visit the Partnering for Purpose SalesConnect

Read our stories and Partnering for Purpose blogs


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Joy Aboim

Senior Community Impact Leader

People Policy and Purpose Org