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More Women in Leadership Roles - How to Make it Happen

More Women in Leadership Roles - How to Make it Happen
Rola Dagher, President of Cisco Canada and Americas Executive Sponsor for Cisco Connected Women's Group, discusses three ways to encourage and support gender diversity & inclusion from a leadership standpoint.
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More Women in Leadership Roles - How to Make it Happen

Rola Dagher

President Cisco Canada

August 02, 2018
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I get often asked; “why don’t we have more women in senior leadership positions in technology companies or corporations”. Unfortunately, it’s the reality we face; and frankly, as both a mother and leader in Canada’s technology sector, I too question why we haven’t found a solution to this problem.

 We all understand that diversity of gender, religion, age, ability and culture make teams and businesses more dynamic, creative, and successful. Actually, research makes it clear that companies with more diverse workforces fare better financially. So, perhaps, to help solve the question above, we need to reframe the question; how can we drive more women into leadership roles. That's one of the most rewarding parts of my job, as the leader for Cisco Canada and the Americas Executive Sponsor for Cisco's Connected Women's Group. I get the opportunity every day to make an impact and help solve this issue.

In my view, there are three main factors that come into play when we look at how we can drive women toward positions of leadership – and let me also say that I truly believe the digital age exacerbates the opportunities for more gender parity and diversity. 

  1. LEADERSHIP
  2. MINDSET
  3. OPPORTUNITY

LEADERSHIP. With the increasing pace and complexity of today’s economy and markets, it’s critical that leadership brings diverse perspectives and experiences. Leaders play a crucial role in modeling behaviors that inspire others to take action. Cisco, for example, has the most diverse executive leadership team in Silicon Valley. Just recently, Cisco’s Executive Leadership Team hit gender parity of 50%! And, it doesn’t stop there. Cisco’s isn’t just gender diverse, but diverse from an ethnic, professional background, and an experience perspective. This has had a ripple effect across the company.

OPPORTUNITY. As women, we often face circumstances that may deter us from continuing our career paths and journeys. It’s difficult to balance the demands at home and demands at work, let alone focusing on career growth. I truly believe that the age of digitization has, and will continue, to level the playing field. Work is a thing you do, not a place you have to be. Technology provides that harmony and flexibility many look for. At Cisco, a large part of the workforce has full flexibility to choose where they need to be in order to get their work done. Our focus is on the value of work, and the value our customers receive from the work we do.  

MINDSETI’m referring to your mindset. You have the power to change the course of your destiny. That idea was instilled very early on in myself.  I come from a family of 6 girls and my father had always taught all of us that there is no difference between you and a boy from an opportunity perspective.  If you want something, go for it. And, it’s critical that we instill this notion in our children from a very early age. Mindset doesn’t happen overnight, perceptions are a build off experiences and viewpoints. You either take control of the situation or you give up and submit to the situation. Taking control can be uncomfortable, but growth and comfort do not co-exist. 

There’s a well-known proverb that captures the sentiment I am hoping to convey: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  We create our own luck – opportunities don’t just fall into your lap; you earn them. In the face of adversity, failing is an option to learn from, but giving up has never been an option in my books.

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