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Bridge the Gap: Supporting Female Leadership Development in Our Partner Community

By Joy Aboim

Bridge the Gap: Supporting Female Leadership Development in Our Partner Community

By Joy Aboim

Published 11-18-22

Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.

Three people talking together in an office setting

This blog was written by Justine McDermott, a Cisco Sales Leader in the UK & Ireland (UKI) Partner Organisation.

Cisco as a company is truly committed to powering an inclusive future for all where everyone has the opportunity to participate and thrive, with Women in Leadership being a key priority within the business. Reflecting on my own personal experience after being at Cisco for over eleven years, I can say that I have been greatly supported on my journey to becoming a female leader. From Female Leadership training programs, mentoring, all the way through to Manager/Executive sponsorship I believe Cisco has helped to shape the leader I am today. Cisco’s Multiplier Effect leverages the power of sponsorship to change the equation for diversity. It is a pledge, a personal commitment, that encourages leaders at all levels to sponsor at least one extraordinary person for career advancement. This experience gave me the determination and passion to help other women on their journeys whether that is to become a leader, to be successful in their current role, or simply raising their confidence in the workplace.

Bridge The Gap

After successfully delivering an Internal Female Development Program, Stand Together Achieve Results (STAR), I wanted to explore how I could help our partner community in supporting their emerging female leaders. In 2018 I was given that opportunity and after 14 months of preparation I launched Bridge The Gap in conjunction with Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a world leading integrated Talent Development and Transition company. LHH helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. They do this by helping their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers, and transition into new jobs.

Bridge The Gap is aimed to give individuals a rich learning experience that enables them to explore what might hold them back from achieving more in their career. It enables the participants to progress, whether that be vertically or laterally, in a way that it is meaningful for them. During the program the individuals cover a nuber of topics:

  • Career Development – thinking long term, not missing the bigger career picture
  • Confidence and Resilience – knowing your strengths and not doubting your potential, ensuring you are working at the right level
  • Presence and Impact – talking about yourself positively, not keeping strengths and successes a secret
  • Networking – building a strategic as well as personal network.

To date we have delivered this female leadership program in both a face-to-face and virtual format. We have had candidates from a range of our partners including WWT, Wetcon-Comstor, Thrive, Comms-Care, Ingram Micro, Softcat, Computacentre, Tech-Data, and VirginMedia O2. After receiving such fantastic feedback I can say it reaffirms the reasons as to why I am doing this for our Partner community. View our first video case study and read what two participant had to say:

“Graduating from Bridge The Gap was a wonderful experience. The programme gave me the opportunity to identify my key strengths and focus on areas of personal and professional development. I was shown tools and strategies to identify a new approach to career planning. Since graduating I took time to re-access my career path and made some hard decisions which resulted in progression. Bridge The Gap helped me unlock a new level of confidence whilst working with incredible people from the IT industry. Truly empowering.”
Stacey Garrett, currently working at CDW

“The opportunity to take part in Bridge The Gap – Women in Leadership, came at a perfect time. I was feeling confused as to my next career move, what that looked like and how I could achieve it whilst lacking in confidence…Through the 3 modules along with the prework, workshops and coaching groups I was able to have a clearer understanding on my strengths, how to use those to my advantage and more importantly how to focus on improving those areas that needed development. I was also able to gain confidence by understanding how to manage negative thoughts and develop my personal brand which was an area I hadn’t previously given much focus. Understanding my brand, my value and my strengths gave me the confidence to push myself further and as a result I was recently promoted to a more senior position where I’m really enjoying the new challenges. For anyone who feels a bit stuck or needs a refocus I would highly recommend this course – thank you Cisco and LHH!”
Vikki Mitchell, WWT

After the first program I had the pleasure of being interviewed by LHH global magazine for an article, The Power of Reciprocity: Women supporting women.

In August our third UKI cohort will graduate from Bridge The Gap, and we will then start to take nominations for our next program. Although currently Bridge The Gap is for our UKI partner community I am currently in discussions to expand this across EMEA, APJC and Americas, so we can look to support more of our partners around the world. We are hoping this will be available from November 2022, as part of our purpose of driving an inclusive furture for all. We are also exploring as to how we may offer opportunities in each cohort to historically underserved females outside of the IT industry.

The Impact of COVID-19 on our Female Talent

In this 2021 Mckinsey & Company report you can read about the affects COVID-19 has had on female employment. Following Covid-19 one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers versus one in five men.
As business leaders, we all have the ability to help develop our female employees no matter what the situation. As we find ourselves navigating through this strange and challenging time, it remains crucial that we support and nurture our female talent to become the next generation of female leaders.

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