By Clayton Naidoo
Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.
In September 2020, our CEO Chuck Robbins, challenged us to think radically different about Cisco’s role and to take bold and deliberate actions in support of social justice. With our purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All as our north star, we embarked on a remarkable journey that has brought us to where we are today.
This September marks our two-year milestone since establishing Cisco’s Social Justice Beliefs and Actions backed by a 5-year $300 million commitment. Our actions are company-wide global priorities designed to drive lasting, systemic, and generational change for the African American and Black (AA/B) community, and our beliefs were designed to serve as a blueprint for how we respond to injustice and address inequity for all communities.
Growing up in South Africa, I am keenly aware of the many challenges facing historically marginalized communities. Capitalizing on my time spent as General Manager of Sub-Saharan Africa, I embraced the opportunity to stand up Cisco’s Action Office when I was offered the role.
An Agile Team of Experts
To ensure our Social Justice Actions make a lasting impact we knew we needed to establish clear goals, develop performance indicators, and continuously monitor our progress throughout our journey. We needed to be agile and pivot quickly as we encountered new challenges and opportunities along the way.
In 2021 we established an Action Office to provide strategic oversight, and operational rigor across all 12 actions. It is an agile team that convenes subject matter experts and facilitates collaboration across our entire ecosystem of employees, partners, customers, and suppliers. Today, the Action Office collaborates with hundreds of people across every business function of the company to lend their unique expertise and perspectives to this important work. The Action Office provides support and keeps the teams on track.
“To ensure our Social Justice Actions make a lasting impact we knew we needed to establish clear goals, develop performance indicators, and continuously monitor our progress throughout our journey.”
While we are still early in our 5-year journey, I am proud of the progress we have made. These are the 12 Actions we are taking and some of our achievements through FY22:
Supporting policy change: Invested millions of dollars donated by Cisco and employees to nonprofits and social-justice initiatives.
Increasing representation: Achieved a 60% increase in AA/B employees in entry level through manager roles, a 94% increase in AA/B directors, and a 160% increase in AA/B vice presidents and above.
Paying everyone fairly: Expanded our pay fairness program to include bonus and stock fairness analysis for gender globally and by ethnicity in the US.
Making our board more diverse: Welcomed John D. Harris II and Marianna Tessel to our Board of Directors and increased the number of AA/B candidates and full spectrum diversity in our Board and executive leadership pipelines.
Completing anti-discrimination training: 91% of our employees have completed Building Skills for a Conscious Culture Training and we are making the training available to Cisco partners and suppliers.
Connecting leaders and employees: 100% of our vice presidents have pledged to sponsor an employee via The Multiplier Effect (TME) and we are making TME available to Cisco partners and suppliers.
Diversifying our suppliers: Increased spend with diverse suppliers by 27%.
Committing $150 million to Black Colleges and Universities: Committed $50 million to establish Student Freedom Initiative’s “Access to Education” endowment, of which $25 million has been spent, and committed $100 million to fund critical technology upgrades at HBCUs of which $23.5 million has been spent.
Supporting Black-owned companies: Expanded our 0% and 6 month finance offer for HBCUs to Black-owned businesses and provided financial services training to AA/B owned Cisco channel partners.
Diversifying our partners: Starting with one well known Black owned partner, we continued to expand and invest in our entire base of AA/B owned partners with a special focus on 14 Acceleration partners.
Investing in Black innovators: Provided millions in funding to venture funds and startups led by founders and CEOs who are AA/Black Hispanic/Latinx, Asian and women.
Integrating human rights into tech: Established our Human Rights Advisory Committee to promote and champion human rights across Cisco and refine our business and human-rights strategy.
Expanding our Impact
Cisco’s Social justice commitments go well beyond our 12 Actions. Cisco’s Inclusive Communities also play a critical role in driving social justice. This past year, they transformed Cisco’s annual Social Justice week which is anchored around the United Nations’ World Social Justice Day each February, into a year-round Social Justice Movement.
In June, Cisco participated in the Global Intellect Summit in New York City sponsored by a member of our African American Cisco Partner Community (AACPC), Overland Tandberg. As part of our sponsorship, we had the opportunity to showcase a video highlighting our Social Justice Actions on the big screen in Times Square.
Earlier this month we committed $5 million to the Black Economic Alliance Foundation (BEA Foundation), a national nonprofit organization that promotes generational wealth-building for the Black community. The commitment includes over $4 million in grants and direct technical services toward the development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE) and $1 million towards the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund. The commitment will advance the future development of the CBE’s graduate programming at Clark Atlanta University and expands current CBE programming at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, supporting the next generation of Black entrepreneurial talent in the Atlanta area.
And just last week, Cisco participated in 2022 National HBCU week on a panel sponsored by the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity Through HBCUs. We talked about our partnership with Student Freedom Initiative and how our $150 million commitment, the largest corporate donation to HBCUs in our nation’s history, is impacting the entire HBCU ecosystem.
Momentum for the Future
As I reflect on what we have been able to accomplish over the past two years, I am proud of the impact we are making. While it is still early in our journey, we have created a successful framework to carry out our Actions and generated momentum that will carry us forward. I am grateful to have been part of Cisco’s social justice journey and I thank everyone, our employees, customers, and partners who have been on this journey with us. Together—we can power an inclusive future for all.
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