Cisco Canada Blog

How Cisco is inspiring women in technology and why you should too

April 20, 2012

Let’s face it – the high technology field is dominated by men. The number of women in technology is slowly increasing, but it is still not unusual for me to be the lone female in a conference room full of men!

But there are ways technology companies can attract, and retain top female talent. At Cisco, women’s resource groups help to create a sense of community, and on March 26th the first “Women in Technology Forum” was held. The purpose of the forum was to connect, empower and inspire Cisco employees across the globe.

It wouldn’t be a Cisco event without using awesome technology, and although the event was hosted in San Jose, it was made available to employees across the globe using Webex and IP TV. In Toronto we attended using Cisco TelePresence and from our conference room on Bay Street we were able to watch speakers and interact with them during the question and answer period.

The highlight of the day was an interview with our CTO, Padmasree Warrior. Padmasree has over 1 million Twitter followers and many of the questions she answered were submitted using the social media platform. We learned the scope of her role at Cisco and her passions for technology and evolving the future of our company. In addition to her role as CTO she is also general manager for our Enterprise Business. We learned how she balances the demands of her role with family, poetry, art and meditation. I was inspired to become a follower!

On the surface it might seem obvious that sponsoring an event such as this, empowering an under-represented (but extremely valuable) segment of our workforce, is the “right thing to do”. But for me, this event was more than that.     


Working in a man’s world sometimes you start to wonder if it is even possible to advance your career. Hearing from our high ranking women inspired me that not only is it possible, but that women are making a real impact at Cisco. 

And if you ever want to host a women’s forum at your company, here are some of the reasons to make it happen:

It was (almost) free. One inspiring aspect of the event was the organization. With over 1,500 attendees the whole event was organized by volunteers and we leveraged the resources we had – our conference rooms, our technology and our inspirational leaders as speakers. You can do the same.

Planning was learning. The planning and delivery of the event gave an opportunity to put a spotlight on some of the young talent we have in the company.

Inspiration can be very powerful. Nothing can add value to your company more than your employees. Utilize this event to make your employees confident, proud and more prepared to do their job. 

Meet your neighbour. The event was a catalyst to bring people together. And although we enjoyed meeting people from global offices, we also made new local friendships and work connections during the day.

I encourage all of our technology industry counterparts to hold similar events. The IT industry is facing a severe shortage of female talent, and it is only through education that this can be changed.

April 26th is International Girls in ICT Day, watch for my next blog on how we are celebrating this day at Cisco Canada.

Leave a comment


  1. Trina, excellent thoughts. very inspiring
    Has there been any ROI tracking of such initiatives in terms of retention of women in technology at CISCO

    • trinaalexson

      We haven’t measured retention but we have measured interest year-over-year. This article was written four years ago in our first attempt to get Canadian Cisco women together. As you can see from the picture, it was a small group. But each year we take feedback after the event and each year we have grown. This year the event was three cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary) with over 200 attendees across Canada. A big jump from five women in a conference room!

  2. Excellent blog! Thoroughly enjoyed your perspective on WITF.

  3. Trina, love your post! Nice to hear more about your personal experience and that of the Toronto team. Just put up my own recap here:
    Swing by and share your thoughts:)