Cisco Systems specialises in networking and communications technology and is based in the United States. Cisco has made an effort to boost the number of women within its networks, thereby helping to address the issue of gender discrimination. It has created a Gender Diversity Council, which seeks to identify barriers to the effective participation of women, such as the lack of mentors and role models. Cisco has also partnered with the NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology), among other, to boost the number of women who pursue a career in science and technology, aiming to redress the under-representation of women in engineering and computer science courses in the United States. Cisco Systems states that it “intends to create a pool of females ready to enter the IT workforce”.
Cisco Systems also runs a Networking Academy Programme, in conjunction with partners such as the UN and USAID, aimed at generating information and communication technology skills in less-developed countries. It now aims for 30% female participation in these programmes through the provision of scholarships in countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia and Sri Lanka.
In April 2008, Cisco Systems announced that its efforts had led to a 47% increase in the total number of students enrolled in its Networking Academy Programme in Morocco over 12 months and that 31% of the 7,500+ enrolled students were women. Cisco Systems' focus on training women to enter the ICT industry stemmed from its belief that “empowering women with the technical knowledge and demand-driven networking skills helps ensure a gender sensitive policy environment, thus giving women a competitive edge in the job market”.