Cisco: From Empowerment to Impact

IN FOCUS: Ananke takes a deeper look into Cisco Systems Middle East's efforts to empower women in tech for positive change.

Technology has played a pivotal role empowering women not just digitally but socio-politically and economically as well. Through a parallel reality that is the World Wide Web women have already begun leaning in. That said, there is still a long way to go, many biases to be dealt with one step at a time and many ceilings to be smashed!

According to the Inclusive Internet Index 2018, the gender gap in Internet inclusion is still far too pervasive with more men having access to the internet than women (in the countries included in the study). While research shows that the tech sector is still considered a boy’s club especially in developing nations, countries like the UAE and organizations such as Cisco are breaking stereotype by creating a dynamic space for women and showcasing how diversity benefits all – boosting profitability and triggering positive economic activity.

Having a diverse workforce drives innovation and creates an environment, where every employee feels respected and valued for their unique contributions. The benefits of gender diversity are reaped by everyone, not just women, and Cisco has a shared responsibility to do more to increase women’s representation in the workforce. Greater inclusion means organizations and the industry as a whole gain diverse perspective, deeper understanding of customers and markets, and ultimately, better performance levels. At Cisco, the power of inclusion and diversity is harnessed to foster the best in our people, and to develop a robust community where our differences are our best assets.

In order to attract and retain women at all levels, organizations need to continue their efforts to hire, nurture, promote and support women, especially in technical fields and leadership roles.

Cisco has programs and resources for women to help them develop their skills as individual contributors, managers, and senior executives. These programs engage women in the spirit of connection and mentorship. They are given an equal chance to prove themselves, to work their way up the corporate ladder and hold executive leadership positions. A significant portion of Cisco’s Executive leadership team are women.

Cisco has designed specific programs for women at different level in their career at Cisco. DARE and JUMP are women’s development programs which aim to develop world-class, next-generation women leaders, who are authentic to themselves and armed with the skills and behaviors needed to excel in their current role and contribute to the future success of Cisco. Both programs are nominations only programs at a Global level. They are designed to help Cisco’s leaders to look more broadly for female talent across the company, broadening our pipeline of diverse talent for the long term.

The Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN) is a network of Cisco customers, partners, and employees joining together to make a difference for women in IT. This network of professionals seeks to create inclusion and diversity in technology and business by specifically enrolling and mentoring girls and women. The year-round programs offer tools for our members to enrich and grow their careers, while paying it forward to empower women in our global community. CEWN is the perfect platform that demonstrates how Cisco is redefining the technology space and our commitment to championing women.

The Women of Impact Conference globally and regionally is a day to focus on encouraging professional women to network, find mentors and role models, hear successful women executives talk, and connect globally through our day-long telepresence connection. It aims to connect, inspire and empower women in technology.

Every year, Cisco supports Girls in ICT Day with its own event – Girls Power Tech – a global mentoring event that inspires 6000 young women each year to pursue careers in STEM and technology. Cisco employees worldwide spend the day with girls age 13 to 18, encouraging them to consider education and career paths in STEM. Girls Power Tech demonstrates our commitment towards improving gender diversity in the technology sector. Cisco recognizes that nurturing and generating interest in technology needs to start at an early age, and this is why so many of our colleagues volunteer their time and energy to make this annual event a success. Cisco has been recognized across the world for making a meaningful difference for its employees and customers. The company featured in the World’s 25 Best Multinational Workplaces and qualified only because it appeared on 12 national best companies’ rankings last year, Saudi Arabia being one of them.

The Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN) is a network of Cisco customers, partners, and employees joining together to make a difference for women in IT. This network of professionals seeks to create inclusion and diversity in technology and business by specifically enrolling and mentoring girls and women.

Cisco is also currently partnering with Reach, a non-profit mentoring program dedicated to supporting and developing the skills of young female professionals and help them unlock their true potential through structured mentoring and professional support. By partnering with Reach, Cisco can help develop and nurture a new generation of female leaders from and for the Middle East; confident, driven, knowledgeable, experienced, compassionate and inspiring.

In 1997, Cisco launched a Global education program Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad) to teach individuals how to design, build, manage, and secure computer networks, and to meet the growing demand for ICT talent around the world. Through NetAcad, Cisco has helped over 295,000 students in the Middle East graduate from the program since its inception. The NetAcad program is licensed for free to nonprofit institutions worldwide and gives students the foundation for a digital career. The curriculum builds their core technical skills, while developing the communication, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities needed in today’s economy. Cisco Netacad strives to continually update its curriculum to stay current with employers’ needs and the rapid pace of technology innovation. Since the program’s inception, the number of female students across the Middle East has been high, with women accounting for 48% of students in the UAE, 36% in Jordan, and 59% in Oman. With nearly 520 active academies in the Middle East across 14 countries, Cisco has over 55,000 active students and over 1170 instructors with the average female student participation standing at 28%.

Cisco has always been committed to paying people fairly and equitably. Recently, an innovative and inclusive framework that introduces powerful analytics to evaluate the complex compensation system and its overall health was built. This has helped to build a trusted environment that drives the best teams, allows the company to retain the best talent, and positions Cisco as a top employer.


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