by Emma Reid
Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.
In the 25 years since it was founded, inclusiveness has been at the core of Cisco Networking Academy. Networking Academy’s global reach is amazing, with students in 190 countries and nearly 12 thousand academies offering over 30 courses in up to 27 languages. But making the program available is only half the challenge: making the demand inclusive is another matter. This is why, in 2014, we introduced the Women Rock-IT initiative.
The World Economic Forum predicts that it will take another 136 years to close the global gender gap, this number is greatly impacted by the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data differs by country, but women globally are generally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education and employment. Deloitte Global found that large global technology firms will reach female representation in their workforces of nearly 33 percent in 2022, up slightly more than 2 percentage points from 2019. The Deloitte report acknowledges that “tech companies may need to work even harder to improve these numbers” to recruit, hire, retrain and promote women, especially in technical roles.
Women Rock-IT was conceived to show young women that there are exciting careers for women in tech, across all industries, and to highlight inspiring and successful women who are innovating with tech and serving as great role models.
I’m thrilled to report that since our first Women Rock-IT event, the initiative has seen more than two million participants, and 870,000 course enrollments.
Streaming over social media channels, attendees view live presentations and can take free introductory tech courses to earn digital badges and entry certification-aligned courses offered through Networking Academy, such as: Introduction to IoT, Introduction to Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurship, Linux, Python, and Networking Essentials.
The importance of seeing successful women present at Women Rock-IT cannot be overstated, but was maybe best summed up by Chaylee Reeve, a university student majoring in Space Engineering in Australia: “It’s the power of seeing other women succeed. There’s nothing that can replace that.”
And Women Rock-IT doesn’t only inspire, it can change lives. Agnes Chege was laid off from her customer service job at an electronics company in Nairobi, Kenya early in the pandemic. After joining a Women Rock-IT virtual event, Agnes was inspired to take a free Introduction to Cybersecurity course from Cisco Networking Academy. Before long she was approached by a cybersecurity company, offered an internship, and now works as a Level 1 Security Operations Centre (SOC) Analyst.
“Honestly, if Cisco Networking Academy didn’t exist I wouldn’t be in cybersecurity right now. I had very little knowledge of it before I took the Introduction to Cybersecurity course,” says Agnes.
Agnes is now also actively involved in cybersecurity user awareness training to different clients and has taken her passion to see more girls join the field a notch higher by involving herself in mentorship programs for girls in high schools. She is also taking a free Python Essentials course on Skills for All to improve her programming skills.
Women Rock-IT is an ongoing program. Breaking down the barriers to women’s success in tech is an ongoing challenge, but there are signs of improvement. We started from a low base, and that gives me hope — the more women who pursue STEAM courses and progress into tech jobs, the more role models there are for young women to be inspired to study STEAM subjects, like Agnes.
Who doesn’t like a virtuous cycle?
More from Cisco Systems, Inc.