How Cisco’s Paid Volunteer Time Off is Helping Young Women Enter Tech

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Photo Courtesy of Cisco.

Photo Courtesy of Cisco.

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July 18, 2024 at 4:31PM UTC

Technology is everywhere these days — including on the basketball court. 

High school girls in Austin, Texas scored big at Cisco’s Girls Power Tech event, where members of the Cisco team offered seven-inspiring STEM workshops. One of the most popular involved a bluetooth-enabled basketball that recorded and displayed statistics of the girls' shots with a mobile app. 

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Girls Power Tech (GPT) is a global mentoring initiative to increase the number of women in technology; 5763 young women participated in 2017. Since Cisco employees have 5 paid days off to volunteer each year, community service is at the center of the company’s culture. Employees spent over 15,000 hours mentoring young women with GPT last year at 90 offices in 50 countries. 

And they loved it. Austin GPT leader Jennie Kim said the event’s Desktop Disassembly workshop was especially important to her, because she watched the students overcome the reservations and fears she had about working with technology. 

“When we first told the students they’d be removing and adding desktop computer components, many voiced the same fears I held for years. ‘What if I break it?’ ‘I don’t know what all these wires do!’ ‘I can’t do this!’ Working in small groups, we covered everything from electro-static discharge to motherboards and heat sinks,” she wrote.

“The girls’ curiosity shined as they inspected and inquired about every nook and cranny of the desktop, and they worked through their initial hesitation as they upgraded the memory and video card. As the workshop was wrapping up, the girls assertively rewired and booted the computer with success.”

Kim said she thinks the workshop helped young women gain confidence in computer hardware that she took years to develop, and she hopes Cisco will continue to provide students with the tools they need to pursue careers in technology. 

Cisco’s dedication to women in tech doesn’t stop at the pipeline. The company has worked to build a supportive work culture that is inclusive of all. Cisco has one of the most diverse executive leadership teams (nearly half are women) and was one of the 28 founding signers of the White House Equal Pay Pledge. They’re also a proud member of the UN’s Global Innovation Coalition for Change, making technology more accessible for young women and encourage them to work in STEM fields.

Women at Cisco can participate in a variety of Employee Resource Organizations (EROs) and mentorship programs. Plus, they receive a variety of generous benefits made to empower them in the workplace — from flexible work policies to a 13 week paid maternity leave policy. 

And so far, this dedication to women in the workplace has shined through. The company has been rated a best company for women by Fairygodboss users for the last 3 years. And over 90% of Cisco employees believe their CEO is dedicated to gender diversity.

"Cisco makes gender diversity a priority, and provides ample resources for women to succeed,” one anonymous reviewer wrote on Fairygodboss. 

"Cisco has a culture of being there for each other,” another added. "At Cisco, I can be myself, and the company provides so much flexibility in my work hours — which is so important as a single mom."


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