Unleashing the Power of People

by LP Green, II

Q&A with Shari Slate, Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer, Cisco

Q:  What is Cisco’s vision/strategy for Inclusion & Diversity? 

We have an Office of Inclusion and Collaboration that was built on a very powerful vision – to fuel growth for Cisco, our employees, customers, and partners through the intersection of diversity, inclusion, collaboration, and technology.

Starting with the top two levels of executive leaders, we are changing the way we talk about inclusion and diversity, the way we measure our progress, and how we integrate inclusive practices into our business strategies. This includes a targeted methodology for sharing diversity data with our business leaders for their respective organizations, and a quarterly review process where we help them develop concrete action plans for diverse hiring, retention, and development.

Q:  Is the organization, in general and at the leadership level, diverse? Examples? 

At Cisco, diversity is fundamental to who we are. And our view of diversity is expansive—inclusive of gender and ethnicity – but also a full spectrum of different backgrounds, abilities, generations, cultures, orientations, work styles, and points of view.

Our executive leadership team is one of the most diverse in our industry, which sets a powerful precedent for transformation across our company.  And we are focused on building inclusive and transparent leadership capabilities at all levels. For example, we’ve built Inclusion Leadership Teams (ILTs) across every region and function to translate new insights and ideas into business-relevant strategies. These teams help foster a culture of diverse hiring, retention, development, and inclusion.

And finally, we believe transparency is key. So we measure our progress and publish our diversity data in our annual Corporate Social Responsibility report.

Q:  Is a wide net being cast for talent? How? 

Since diversity is such a crucial factor in our success, we have several transformational practices that ensure we are attracting and interviewing the best talent.

For example, we’ve developed an innovative diverse representation framework that provides business intelligence on the talent market across job, family, geography, skills and experience. We also partner with 25 world-class organizations, like Simmons and Grace Hopper, that help us attract, develop, and promote our diverse talent.  And finally, we’ve made cultural competency a top priority, launching a program for country leaders that focuses on building diverse teams across our global company.

These efforts are definitely paying off. In FY 2016, we made significant strides in attracting and interviewing more diverse candidates, including a 14-percent increase globally in the number of women candidates interviewed, an 18-percent increase in Asian candidates interviewed, and a 20-percent increase in African-American/Black candidates interviewed. As a result, diverse hiring in 2016 has increased significantly over 2015—up over 4 percent for women, 13 percent for African-American/Black candidates, 14 percent for Hispanic/Latino candidates, and 30 percent for those candidates representing American Indian, Native Hawaiian, or more than two races.

Q:  Have you created an inclusive environment to support employees? How, please provide examples? 

Attracting diverse talent is just half of the equation. You also have to create a culture of inclusion that allows all employees to thrive. That’s why Cisco is taking a stand on key issues that violate our zero tolerance policy on discrimination and threaten the equal rights, safety, and dignity of our people. We’re moving beyond traditional policies, practices and programs to focus on fairness, equal rights and social justice. For example:

  • We are proud to have taken a national leadership role in advancing fair pay for everyone as one of the 28 founding signers of the White House Equal Pay Pledge.
  • And when the discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ HB2 bill passed into law in North Carolina, our leadership spoke up. In collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign, our ELT and dozens of other leaders of major companies sent a letter calling on North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory and the State General Assembly to repeal the bill.

We will continue measures such as these to ensure fairness and equality for our employees and partners, both inside and outside of the workplace.


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