Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

A more diverse workforce creates a dynamic, agile organisation

June 18, 2019

How we’re supporting diversity and parity across the board and throughout our organisation


My life at Cisco so far

I’ve been at Cisco for over 18 years, which is incredible. And after working for one company for so long, it could be easy to assume that my working life is static and predictable.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Having started in finance before moving to sales, my current role is Head of Innovation for the UKI, supporting the UK’s digital transformation through digital skills development, productivity improvements, IoT, smart environments and cybersecurity. I lead multiple UK Government co-funded projects including 5G infrastructure deployment in rural areas and testing autonomous vehicles in central London.

It’s an exciting role and while I know the UK’s workforce still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality and diversity, being a woman has never held me back. Because at Cisco, it’s not what you are but who you are and what you do that matters.

Getting the balance right

When I joined Cisco and was studying for my MBA, I could leave early to attend my evening classes. Today, I can attend my daughter’s afternoon school production and catch up on work later. Mobility and flexible working policies are vital for carers, parents – anyone in fact. It also makes employees more productive and willing to work hard.

I’m sure many employers strive to achieve this balance, but it can be difficult to achieve. That’s why at Cisco we have multiple programmes and initiatives aimed at empowering all our staff.


Attracting and retaining talented women is key to our future and we support their success and long-term career ambitions through mentoring and skills development.

Our JUMP programme for example, brings together high-potential, mid-level female participants to explore what leadership really means and how they can make their mark in the workforce by encouraging them to start thinking about themselves in managerial positions. Our DARE initiative, which is for new starters, nurtures the next generation of female leaders, while our annual Women of Impact Conference is held across over 100 live sites in 50 countries in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Added to those are our Connected Women community, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), Women in Finance, our Empowered Women’s Network, and Women in Cybersecurity to name just a few. We also take advantage of global strategic partnerships to bring more women to our workforce, the Anita Borg Institute and Simmons Leadership Conferences being two examples.

Start young, start right

To address the gap between the numbers of men and women in the technology industry, we encourage female talent as early on as possible through our Girls Power Tech STEM mentoring event, the Pathway to Your Future work experience programme for girls age 16-18, and local initiatives run by our Connected Women community, such as Executive Shadowing and Girls in IT.

Beyond gender – equality across the board

Diversity isn’t just about getting girls and women into technology though – it’s about creating a level playing field where everyone thrives, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, orientation, or religion.

Being with colleagues from different backgrounds creates a more dynamic workforce, which is why we conduct diversity training to help eliminate unconscious bias in recruitment and engender a ‘Conscious Culture’ based on dignity, respect, fairness and equity. And we can see this in action, as we have one of the most diverse Executive Leadership Teams in the industry – 42% women and 58% diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Being family friendly also encourages parity. This includes time off for new parents (and grandparents) and prospective parents going though fertility treatment and surrogacy. And for us, ‘family’ means the people we love rather than being limited to traditional notions of family. We also offer emergency time off with pay and a Rethink programme to support parents of children with disabilities.

Everyone counts

In my role, people often assume I have all the answers – but I don’t! Luckily, we have a culture of collaboration, working together and supporting each other. All this work hasn’t gone unnoticed by our employees by the way – as shown when we recently came a very impressive second in the national Great Place to Work awards.

Having Cisco in your CV opens doors, but as I am constantly learning, growing and moving on, I’ve never wanted to leave.

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