Close The Gap!
Cisco, Social Innovation Group
Regional Marketing Manager
Closing the Gap: Encouraging More Young Girls and Women to Tackle Tech
Women continue to be under-represented in the Tech sector. If this trend continues, women risk losing out on some of tomorrow’s best job opportunities. And its clear women have a key role to play in filling the skills gap, and if we get this right, it will benefit not only our industry, but the wider economy.
However, there is no easy fix. The gender imbalance is a problem that has been acknowledged for years and was high on the agenda at the 2016 NetAcad Partner Summit held recently in Thailand. The summit, attended by 100 partners of the Cisco Networking Academy, held a panel discussion led by Sandy Walsh, Director of Cisco’s Social Innovation Group for APJ and joined by Kathy Mulvany, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Cisco. The panel discussed the partnerships and programs Cisco are supporting to help address the gender gap and the challenges we need to overcome in this region both cultural and practical.
Role Models are Everywhere
Here in Asia Pacific & Japan we are striving to address the gender gap across the region through our Women Rock-IT program. Women Rock-IT is a quarterly live TV broadcast which communicate the benefits of a career in IT by talking about the type of work women do and how technology plays a key role in their business success. Our speakers are in different stages of their career and are from different occupations and businesses. To ensure our audience don’t feel miles apart from our speakers, we showcase women 35 years and under who are relatable and realistic role models. Since the Women Rock-IT program first launched in November 2014, 13,500 females have joined the series with a further 3000 downloads of the recordings.
Yesterday we celebrated the International Girls in IT Day here in APJ by airing our Women Rock-IT series and featuring Jodie Fox, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Shoes of Prey, a 3D interactive shopping experience, allowing women to design their own shoes online. Jodie set up Shoes of Prey in 2009 with former Google Inc. employees Michael Fox and Mike Knapp. She imagines a future in which she can check the weather, choose an outfit and design a pair of matching shoes that can print out in her wardrobe while she takes a shower. To demonstrate Jodie's long-term vision, Shraddha Chaplot, Cisco's Machinegineer, taught our audience about 3D printing technology, demonstrated a printer in action and showed us just how it all works.
Help is at Hand
Alongside the inspiration and encouragement our speakers bring to the Women Rock-IT program, we offer free enrollment into Cisco Networking Academy courses, such as the Introduction to the Internet of Everything to enable our young female audience to develop the appropriate skills for the industry.
In parallel to the Cisco TV Series the Mentor Me Cisco Competition’ offers three lucky winners the opportunity to take part in a six-month mentorship with Vanessa Sulikowski, one of Cisco’s Distinguished Systems Engineers.
Locations such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Australia took part in the Girls Power Tech initiative spearheaded by Cisco’s community relations team. The event managed locally by program managers of the Social Innovation Group, gave the audience of the Women Rock-IT broadcast an opportunity to be mentored by Cisco employees.
In my opinion, there are two crucial careers stages we need to address if we are to increase the number of women working in technology. Entering the tech industry and returning to work after a career break. Both are key in creating a pipeline of female tech talent and future global problem solvers to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. There is no magic bullet for increasing the proportion of women in tech, but we must not give up working to fix the problem. The potential benefits are enormous, and with concerted effort across industry and academia, we can make the progress that is so greatly needed.