How My Company Builds an Inclusive Community — And Advice for Other Companies

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Mimi Wallace

Photo courtesy of Cisco.

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Mimi Wallace, an Events and Communications leader in Global Systems Engineering at Cisco, loves her job. But it’s not just the work that inspires her. She also appreciates how her company supports and upholds diversity and inclusion efforts and provides ample opportunities for employees to share their perspectives and grow.

From offering employee resource groups (ERGs) to making space for meaningful conversations, Cisco upholds its employees and nurtures an inclusive environment for all employees. “Cisco walks the walk with a passion that is quite remarkable,” Wallace said.

Recently, Fairygodboss checked in with Wallace about her role at Cisco and the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts that are the cornerstones of its culture.

Tell us about your job.

I lead virtual teams to deliver world-class events and messaging as well as lead our organizational communications and culture initiative to promote a highly productive team for Cisco’s Global Systems Engineering. 

Why do you believe Cisco is a particularly inclusive place for all? 

Not only does our 225-person team continually build inclusive environments, conversations and spaces specifically for our team, but Cisco also walks the walk with a passion that is quite remarkable.  

How has Cisco engaged with or supported its communities?

Cisco provides regular and frequent opportunities for teams and individuals to meet and learn the value of tools for hosting an inclusive workplace. Leaders are not afraid of having bold and meaningful conversations and actions around hiring, retaining and embracing diverse talent — which has impacted every aspect of the business. 

Are you involved in any resource organizations or networks at Cisco?

I’m a co-leader for the Women of Cisco group as part of our team in Raleigh, North Carolina. I am also a member of Cisco Pride and the Cisco Green team.

How and why did you first get involved? 

Early in my life, I was always passionate about being part of growing and supporting the community around me. When I joined Cisco, I immediately began seeking out groups that I could bring value to and embrace. Cisco Pride and Women of Cisco were (and are) warm and welcoming and really seek to make an impact on Cisco’s culture and business practices. I was drawn in and haven’t looked back!

How has being an ally impacted you?

I recently wrote a story for the We Are Cisco Blog, which is part of our Employer Branding team, where I shared why I feel allyship — and using our pronouns — matters. In the post, I discuss how I not only use my pronouns when introducing myself on a team call but also how I’ve added them to my Webex, email signature and more! Gender and gender expression can be complicated, but the truth is, you don’t need a complete understanding of gender to be respectful of someone’s wishes and to address them in the way they want to be addressed.

I mention my pronouns, even though it might seem obvious, because I want people to feel comfortable with me, whether that means asking questions so that I can better help educate or, more importantly, so that my transgender and non-binary community members feel comfortable, safe and loved. It’s my intent that by listing, sharing and shouting my pronouns, it opens up a respectful, safe space for everyone to comfortably share their own pronouns. 

What do you think other companies can learn from how Cisco handles inclusive communities and D&I initiatives? 

Being open to where you are right now, no matter where it is, and bravely moving toward something better is a great takeaway from Cisco’s efforts. Without judgement but with intention evaluate your company’s Diversity, Inclusivity, and Collaboration to see where improvements can be made. 

I love how Cisco sees a gap and brings in diverse voices to inform and influence these initiatives. Seeing more corporations and companies make similar moves to update their standard practices would be the broad change that is required to move an entire culture. 

What has Cisco accomplished that you’re most proud of?

I was also very excited to find out that Workday (our new HR tool) has already added pronouns as part of our profiles. This is why I love working at Cisco — we are truly empowering an inclusive future for all, in big ways and small ways, and they’re all important!


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