Cisco Women of Impact 2018

I am proud to be part of the Cisco family where diversity is not just a buzzword of the day, but a cornerstone of who we are, and it starts at the top with our CEO Chuck Robbins. Cisco not only talks diversity, it walks diversity, with 40 percent of its Board and 38 percent executive leadership being women. Cisco has many initiatives underway to increase the women and diversity numbers throughout the organization, such as the Multiplier Effect Pledge that challenges leaders of all levels to sponsor one diverse person to the next level in their career, pay parity, emergency time off, monthly Inclusion & Diverse events for all diverse groups, and many others.

Last week, Cisco held the 6th annual Women of Impact conference to encourage and support women in technology with 16,000+ attendees and nearly 24 hours of content with in-person sessions at more than 100 sites worldwide, including female students ages 13-18. I had the honor of hosting the ‘Securing our Future Together’ session, which included a panel with some of Cisco’s security leaders where we discussed the need for more women in security, how they are changing the narrative for their organizations, and what it’s like to be a woman working in security. For those you who missed the session, below are some highlights and key takeaways:

Dave Justice: SVP, Global Security & Enterprise Networking Sales:

  • We will not be the #1 security company without women and diverse teams.
  • The best performing and most fun teams I’ve been on have been diverse.
  • 50 percent of technology users are women, so if we are not represented on that front we will not make an impact.
  • 14 percent of our GTM Security team is women and that isn’t right.
  • Please help us, learn about security and join our mission.

John Stewart: SVP, Chief Security and Trust Officer:

  • Diverse thinking always makes me better and always makes any team better, and I get to learn from that difference of opinion and point of view.
  • We are on the right trend lines but need to go faster to close the gender gap.
  • We need diversity across all levels and functions of the organization, and we need to measure to attain successful outcomes or course-correct to get us there.
  • If we can’t find the right candidates, let’s build them.
  • Don’t wait and don’t settle.

Ashley Varasteh: Virtual Security Systems Engineer:

  • You can learn anything.
  • Cybersecurity is constantly changing; it’s fun to keep learning.
  • You are all capable; realistically, you can do anything.
  • ‘I don’t know’ shouldn’t exist; if you don’t know, ask someone or look it up.
  • Just keep going, this is OUR future!

Michele Guel: Distinguished Engineer, Security and Trust Office:

  • Atmosphere of competition doesn’t work; we have to work together.
  • We are all different, but when we pool our talents together we can be UNSTOPPABLE!
  • Talk to girls about cybersecurity; the younger the better.
  • Create activities focused for girls.
  • Everyday opportunities come – if we don’t take them, someone else will.
  • We will make mistakes, fall down, but we must have the courage to get back up and keep moving forward.
  • Look for those ordinary moments and turn them into extraordinary opportunities.

Gracie Chien: Sr. Marketing Manager & Operations, Security Product Marketing:

  • Every day, we have a choice to make. Choose what you’re most passionate about.
  • Cybercrime is a top concern, together we can make an impact & difference.
  • Build professional relationships and gain advocates.
  • Learn what to do, what not to do, and put it into practice.
  • Know every engagement is a valuable engagement.

Call to Action

  • Diversity can no longer be an afterthought, it needs to be a priority!
  • It is no longer good enough for men and women to just say you support diversity… it’s time to take action!
  • Identify women and young girls to inspire, mentor and sponsor, and present them with career changing opportunities, leadership development programs, visibility and exposure.

We cannot overestimate the role that technology plays in the world and our daily lives. What excites me the most, as I shared last week, is how technology serves the broader good – to improve people’s lives, preserve the environment and protect our world. At the Annual Senate Intelligence committee, Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence said in his opening statement that cybersecurity is his “greatest concern” and “top priority.”

It is our duty to ensure that the best talent is at the forefront of these critical and exciting changes and challenges irrespective of gender. It is not only good for society, it is an economic imperative that women are equally represented in the workforce. Some statistics to consider:

  • A Mckinsey study showed that if women were able to participate in the economy identically to men, it would add a staggering $28 trillion or 26 percent to the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025.
  • The STEM Connector study shows that globally only 26 percent of STEM jobs are filled by women.
  • That report also shows that more than 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, but only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women.
  • The Cyber Security Ventures report estimates that by 2021 there will be 3.5 million jobs unfilled globally in cybersecurity alone, up 1 million from this past year.
  • Last year’s Global Security Workforce Study showed that although women reported higher levels of education, they represent only 11 percent of the security workforce.

We simply cannot seize the full promise of technology if we don’t leverage half of the IT user’s perspective and half of the population’s intellect. Embrace the beauty of diversity and use the strength of our collective differences to secure our future together!

A final note for those of you who are attending RSA: I invite you to the RSAC Women’s Leadership Reception sponsored by Cisco on Tuesday, April 17, 201 from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Press Club, see link for more details.

We will see you there!



Harninder Bassi

Director Sales Operations

Global Security Sales Organization Americas