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Leaders for Education Series - John T. Chambers

John T. Chambers

John Chambers is Chairman and CEO of Cisco. He has helped grow the company from $70 million when he joined Cisco in January 1991, to $1.2 billion when he assumed the role of CEO, to its current run rate of $36 billion. In November 2006, Chambers was named Chairman of the Board, in addition to his CEO role. Cisco is the first private sector organization to be part of UNGEI's Global Advisory Committee. Here John talks to us about what education means to him and the role of women in fueling economic growth, not just at Cisco, but in the developing world.

What does education mean to you and how has it helped you launch your career?

I believe that education and the Internet are two great equalizers for the world. 

The Internet breaks down geographic and financial barriers to education provision and also enables communities to interact and learn together.  The use of the Internet in education has always been at the heart of Cisco’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.  On a personal note, my wife is a former school teacher, and I myself struggled in school due to dyslexia. I’ve always felt that we can and should do more to enable everyone – regardless of location or socioeconomic status – to have access to knowledge and opportunities. 

Cisco is one of the world’s top 100 companies, employing over 65,000 people.  How do you feel women have added to its growth and ethos and overall success?

One of Cisco’s founders was a woman, Sandy Lerner. So, in a sense our company is the product of both genders’ vision, aptitudes and drive. Today, 22% of our workforce is female and 14% of vice president positions are occupied by women.  I believe a diverse employee community is essential to Cisco’s success and allows us to see the world, including the needs of our customers, from different angles.

Not surprisingly, research has shown that girls’ aptitude for ICT is about equal to boys’ abilities, but that girls often lack relevant role models and tend to believe that employment in the tech sector is better suited to men. More importantly, girls may have a difficult time finding and taking advantage of ICT educational opportunities - particularly in developing countries.  I encourage women of all ages to consider a career in the IT sector.  The sector offers many possibilities and technology can truly change lives.

You spoke recently at the World Economic Forum about the issues facing developing countries and the need for education to be a top priority. What do you think is the role of education in promoting gender equality and helping encourage investment in developing countries?

Companies locate to areas where they can hire top talent. So when governments invest in education, they help to create jobs and stimulate the economy.  By ensuring that women have access to education, a country is promoting social inclusion and doubling its potential labour force.  This has a significant effect on GDP and equity market performance.  To be candid, education for all is the right thing to do socially and economically.
As the CEO of one of the most influential companies in the world and someone who has been active in education initiatives internationally as well as in the United States, what message would you send to policy makers & governments about girls’ education? 

Make education a priority and lead by example.

Is there anything else about education and your work that you’d like to add?

I am very proud of the Cisco Networking Academy – Cisco’s largest give-back program in education and possibly the largest eLearning program in the world. Close to a million people in over 165 countries are taking Networking Academy courses today, many of them women. 

Because situating women in good jobs produces a wealth of social and economic benefits, Networking Academy is committed to promoting ICT gender equality.

The Networking Academy opens doors for women in a field traditionally dominated by men. In Africa, currently 31% of students graduating from Cisco Certified Network Associate courses are women, exceeding the target of 30% female participation for the LDC Initiative. The majority of female respondents to the survey said they have more confidence and their career opportunities are better as a result of the programme.

I encourage you to reach out to your nearest Networking Academy to find out how Cisco can help you learn about technology. 

You can find an overview of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility work in education and other areas here.

Click here for John Chambers's biography.

Click here for more on the upcoming E4 - Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality Conference



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E4 - Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality Conference
Related links
Click here for John Chambers's biography.

Click here for more on Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility

Click here to find your nearest Networking Academy