By Laura Quintana
Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.
The theme for the United Nations International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, and Cisco Networking Academy is at the forefront of providing education for everyone interested in technology as a career. At Cisco Networking Academy, our mission aligns with the company’s purpose of powering an inclusive future for all.
NOTE: View the Cisco video here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-y33Mfp4Bc
Since its inception 25 years ago, the cumulative number of women participating in Cisco Networking Academy (calculated as a percent of the total number of students who identified their gender as male, female, or nonbinary) has grown over time, and now stands at 26 percent.
Still, we can do more, especially as women comprise nearly half of the workforce.
The reasons why women are underrepresented in technology may be multifaceted. Whether it is because of cultural norms or gender stereotypes—the fact is that technology touches every aspect of our lives. If women aren’t better represented in technology as all industries digitize, we are missing their contributions and innovations.
Positive role-models may help, and for that we don’t need to look further than some of Networking Academy’s own alumni.
In education, people like Nancy not only achieved academically for themselves but realized they could help others, too. “The skills I received during my time at a Cisco Networking Academy changed my life course forever,” says Nancy. “I am a first-generation college student and found my passion of teaching through being a student of the Networking Academy. I started my career in the IT industry implementing and supporting networks all over the United States.”
“After attending Networking Academy courses, I knew I wanted to be a college professor and make a difference in the lives of others. I have been teaching Cisco Networking Academy courses for over 22 years and have touched the lives of thousands of students and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.”
In India, Matilda has a similar story to tell. “In 2004, networking courses were highly sought after. It was during this time that I graduated as an instructor for a CCNA course and established a local Networking Academy in IFET College of Engineering, Tamil Nadu,” she says. Now a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Matilda has continued to help students gain real-world tech skills that have also led to fulfilling careers.
Empowering underserved communities
Other women use the opportunity to help underserved communities.
Lawanda, from Oklahoma, says Networking Academy gave her confidence and opportunities that she never had before. “I used to think only highly intelligent people could work or understand IT and now I’m doing this work,” she says. As an Indigenous American, Lawanda is now, “looking forward to working within the Indian Health Services as a System Network Technician while still serving Indigenous communities to give back to my people, as I’d always dreamed of doing.”
Kutlwano, from South Africa has a similar story of empowerment to tell. “I have learnt to be fearless as a woman in IT firstly, and to believe that I can be whatever I want and achieve it all,” she says.
“Since 2015, I went from being a Desktop Support Technician, to an IT Administrator, SOC Analyst, Network and Systems Engineer, and now in Risk and Compliance. Networking Academy and TCM Academy was my starting point and opened all those doors for me. This is only the beginning, there’s still more to explore and achieve.”
“My success story also has made other girls and young women see that they too can achieve all they set their mind to and that’s all it takes, changing the world by inspiring and giving hope to more women in IT and to continue being fearless.”
As technology touches every aspect of life, we need to see more inspiring stories like this from women in tech and related fields. According to a report by UNESCO, “women remain a minority in digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering, the very fields that are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, thus, many of the jobs of tomorrow.”
The tech-driven Fourth Industrial Revolution could be “a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny,” according to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. And the world needs women to lead and help shape that future.
What actions can we take now?
On April 27, we will celebrate Girls in ICT Day, with the theme of “Digital Skills for Life.” Our Cisco Women Rock-IT program will host a range of inspiring speakers who are using tech to help address something important in all of our lives—climate change.
Cisco hosts events through our Women Rock-IT program, which began in 2014 and has seen more than two million participants with over half enrolling in one of our Cisco Networking Academy courses. Cisco employees also volunteer to support events on Girls in ICT Day in Cisco offices, and on-campus at local schools, colleges, and universities.
Our panelists will discuss their work and inspirations in globally-broadcast sessions over four different time zones. Whether you are already a fearless woman in IT, or at the beginning of your education journey, I’m certain you’ll find inspiration in these women’s stories.
Do you know a high school, college, university, or organization that might like to host an event? Share this form with them to register schools now!
And save the date to encourage young people in your life to tune-in. Registrations for the virtual event open March 24 and free courses will be offered to attendees over the age of 14.
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