/// Telling Employees He Hasn’t "Walked the Talk," Cisco’s John Chambers Leans In on Women in the Workplace Issue
As most of the free world knows by now — from the ubiquitous media coverage that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her new book , “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” has gotten of late — there are some nagging issues of women in the workplace. That was also underscored by the huge debate that arose over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s new rule for the Silicon Valley Internet giant that eliminated work-from-home employees . Now, Cisco CEO John Chambers is weighing in, after a meeting with Sandberg last week, ordering each of his top managers to come up with new women-focused initiatives and put them into their development plans. More interestingly, in an internal email I obtained, he also noted that his own leadership in the area had been lacking. “While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven’t made in the last decade,” wrote Chambers. He pointed out that only one-fourth of the networking giant’s employees and top execs are women, and only 20 percent out of one million networking academy students are women. Currently, Cisco’s highest-ranking woman is Padmasree Warrior, its CTO and strategy officer, and it has three women board members. Still, wrote Chambers: “After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk … What we have been doing hasn’t worked, and it is time to adjust.” Here’s the whole memo: From: John Chambers Date: March 8, 2013, 6:21:49 PM PST To: John Chambers Subject: International Working Women’s Day … Cisco Resolution To my leaders: I had the opportunity yesterday to discuss Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In with Sheryl and a group of my CEO peers. While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven’t made in the last decade. The data is startling. Women hold less than 14% of CEO positions, 17% of board seats globally, and 18% of congressional officials … and these numbers have not changed in a decade. At Cisco, less than 25% of our employees — and our leaders — are women.