How Cisco is inspiring women in technology and why you should too

Let’s face it – the high technology field is dominated by men. The number of women in technology is slowly increasing, but it is still not unusual for me to be the lone female in a conference room full of men!

But there are ways technology companies can attract, and retain top female talent. At Cisco, women’s resource groups help to create a sense of community, and on March 26th the first “Women in Technology Forum” was held. The purpose of the forum was to connect, empower and inspire Cisco employees across the globe.

It wouldn’t be a Cisco event without using awesome technology, and although the event was hosted in San Jose, it was made available to employees across the globe using Webex and IP TV. In Toronto we attended using Cisco TelePresence and from our conference room on Bay Street we were able to watch speakers and interact with them during the question and answer period.

The highlight of the day was an interview with our CTO, Padmasree Warrior. Padmasree has over 1 million Twitter followers and many of the questions she answered were submitted using the social media platform. We learned the scope of her role at Cisco and her passions for technology and evolving the future of our company. In addition to her role as CTO she is also general manager for our Enterprise Business. We learned how she balances the demands of her role with family, poetry, art and meditation. I was inspired to become a follower!

On the surface it might seem obvious that sponsoring an event such as this, empowering an under-represented (but extremely valuable) segment of our workforce, is the “right thing to do”. But for me, this event was more than that.     


Working in a man’s world sometimes you start to wonder if it is even possible to advance your career. Hearing from our high ranking women inspired me that not only is it possible, but that women are making a real impact at Cisco. 

And if you ever want to host a women’s forum at your company, here are some of the reasons to make it happen:

It was (almost) free. One inspiring aspect of the event was the organization. With over 1,500 attendees the whole event was organized by volunteers and we leveraged the resources we had – our conference rooms, our technology and our inspirational leaders as speakers. You can do the same.

Planning was learning. The planning and delivery of the event gave an opportunity to put a spotlight on some of the young talent we have in the company.

Inspiration can be very powerful. Nothing can add value to your company more than your employees. Utilize this event to make your employees confident, proud and more prepared to do their job. 

Meet your neighbour. The event was a catalyst to bring people together. And although we enjoyed meeting people from global offices, we also made new local friendships and work connections during the day.

I encourage all of our technology industry counterparts to hold similar events. The IT industry is facing a severe shortage of female talent, and it is only through education that this can be changed.

April 26th is International Girls in ICT Day, watch for my next blog on how we are celebrating this day at Cisco Canada.

About Trina Alexson

Trina Alexson is the head of Advanced Services for the Service Provider Segment at Cisco Canada. In her role, she leads engineering teams that work directly with Cisco Service Provider customers to help them plan, build and operate their networks. Trina has over 25 years experience in the information technology industry and has been with Cisco since 1996. Prior to her role in the services organization she led software development teams responsible for high availability features in Cisco’s premier routing platforms. She holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and an MBA from Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. Trina Alexson est la responsable des services avancés offerts au segment des fournisseurs de services chez Cisco Canada. Dans le cadre de ses fonctions, elle dirige les équipes d'ingénierie qui travaillent directement avec les clients prestataires de services afin de les aider à planifier, à créer et à exploiter leurs réseaux. Forte d'une expérience de plus de 25 ans dans le secteur des technologies de l'information, Trina œuvre chez Cisco depuis 1996. Avant d'occuper son poste dans le domaine de l'organisation des services, elle dirigeait les équipes de conception de logiciels responsables des fonctions à disponibilité élevée dans les plateformes de routage de premier ordre de Cisco. Trina détient un baccalauréat en ingénierie de la Memorial University of Newfoundland ainsi qu'un MBA de la Richard Ivey School of Business de la University of Western Ontario.
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5 Responses to How Cisco is inspiring women in technology and why you should too

  1. Trina, love your post! Nice to hear more about your personal experience and that of the Toronto team. Just put up my own recap here:
    Swing by and share your thoughts:)

  2. Carina Reyes says:

    Excellent blog! Thoroughly enjoyed your perspective on WITF.

  3. Pingback: Girls, are you ready to expand your horizons? | Cisco Canada Blog

  4. Trina, excellent thoughts. very inspiring
    Has there been any ROI tracking of such initiatives in terms of retention of women in technology at CISCO

    • Trina Alexson says:

      We haven’t measured retention but we have measured interest year-over-year. This article was written four years ago in our first attempt to get Canadian Cisco women together. As you can see from the picture, it was a small group. But each year we take feedback after the event and each year we have grown. This year the event was three cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary) with over 200 attendees across Canada. A big jump from five women in a conference room!

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