Recently, I posted a Tweet with a photo of my colleague Melissa Holder and I enjoying a screening together of the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures. After discussing this film more with other colleagues, I decided to write this blog post – not just because this was an excellent movie (nominated for 3 Oscars this Sunday!) but it’s a great example of why Cisco is a great place to work.
Cisco has EROs, which stands for Employee Resource Organization. These EROs allow Cisco employees to come together in smaller groups who are passionate around certain topics. For this screening of Hidden Figures, several EROs in our Raleigh, NC office partnered together to promote the culture of diversity, inclusivity, and collaboration.
Because the movie focused on African American female engineers and mathematicians who were the ones who helped first launch (and retrieve) the first American into space, each ERO thought it was an excellent idea. Between WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), CW (Connected Women) and CBP (Connected Black Professionals) they made the screening happen. And all of the members were excited to come together for this terrific “office perk.”
“We sold tickets for $6.50, and we sold out the screening,” says Melissa Holder, the CBP Co-Lead for RTP. “Over 200 tickets to people of all races, colors, genders and roles. We all sat together, cried together and laughed together.”
“The attendee mix was pretty amazing,” says Kate Baldwin, one of the Connected Women leads focusing on Alliance. “It included 3 generations of a family; a Cisco employee, her mom and her children. Even Mike Moore, the youngest grandson of Katherine Johnson, the protagonist of the film (he’s also involved in the tech world) attended the event. We were such an expressive group. On multiple occasions the whole crowd would burst into applause.”
As I looked around the theater, I saw true diversity. I saw us enjoying a story that we all could relate to, even the men that came to support their wives and partners. But probably what touched me most are the young girls who are our future, learning this history, and being able to use it as a catalyst in their lives.
As a woman in my mid-career, I saw myself in all of the main characters. Early in my career, I was a young African American woman that most were shocked to see being an Engineer. I’ve been the smart girl in an all-male organization that people wanted to dismiss, not because I wasn’t capable, but because I was different. And I’ve been the person who was passed over for promotions when I knew that my work was over and beyond my peers.
Because we could identify with the film, we all walked away with something. Here are some more inspirational thoughts from those close to the event.
The movie taught me that no matter how tough the circumstance, no matter who is against you, YOU determine your destiny.
– Melissa Holder, Business Development Manager
Despite the injustices that still exist for women and African Americans today, these women impressed us all for what they were able to accomplish with even more barriers in front of them.
– Kate Baldwin, Program Manager
We all left the theater with a renewed energy to come together to overcome the challenges we face every day. It gave us a great sense of perspective and an appreciation for all the progress we’ve made in the decades between that first manned space launch and now.
– Carissa Lada, Business Operations Manager
My daughter shares Katherine Johnson’s birthday (January 17th), so I spent the evening with her celebrating in our own way. But the fact that everyone was able to come together and put together such a fantastic event makes me even more optimist about future collaborations. As EROs, we serve our community and help to uplift all. And we try to have fun along the way.
– Ruwani Biggers, RP Manager.
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Editor’s note: After receiving this employee story, we discovered another Cisconian helping young women in technology through the movie! Belinda Scott, a Cisco high-tech operations manager and a National Society of Black Engineers member chartered the Raleigh chapter of Black Girls Code (BGC) in 2015. 20th Century Fox sent Scott tickets for a screening of the movie with the girls in BGC.