Cisco Diversity Plans Revealed as Tech Giant Pledges $100M To Further Social Justice Causes

The tech giant is making good on its pledge to be a leader in social justice reform, diversity, and equality with a handful of new commitments to enact meaningful change, Cisco tells CRN.


Cisco Systems is following up on its June commitment to be a leader in social justice efforts with a series of pledges and action items to promote equal rights, diversity within the company‘s employee base, and pay parity.

To start, Cisco said it is supporting policy, legislation and organizations working to ensure equal rights for people of color in 2020. The company is also expanding its pay parity program and will require preferred suppliers in 2021 to annually report their workforce diversity stats to Cisco, Fran Katsoudas, Cisco executive vice president and chief people officer, told CRN.

“There‘s an aspirational desire for us to lead and really lean into elements we believe in very strongly, which is using technology for good … that is juxtaposed with specific actions,” Katsoudas said. “We’re sharing this today because we are learning from other companies [and think others can learn from us.] We want to be part of the discussion.”

Sponsored post

[Related: Cisco's Chuck Robbins Speaks Out On 'Abhorrent' Racism, Frustration With 'Lack Of Change']

As part of its program, Cisco is pledging to increase the representation of Black employees at all levels of the company by 25 percent by 2023. The company will also increase representation of Black employees at a director level to vice president or a higher level by 75 percent by 2023.

Cisco is putting up $100 million in financial support and technology to assist historically black colleges and universities recover from the impact of COVID-19 and to help them identify long-term opportunities for innovation and investments in Black-owned startup businesses. Cisco is also launching a $50 million venture capital fund -- the Aspire Fund -- which will invest in venture funds and startups with diverse leadership and founders, the company said.

The San Jose, Calif.-based tech vendor will commit a further $50 million over the next five years to increase the diversity across its partner ecosystem, which will promote financial opportunities for Black-owned partners and increase the number of Black employees in management roles, Cisco said.

“Directionally, what we realized is there is such a good opportunity to share our learnings with our partners and also, in some cases, provide them some training if they need it and if not, we‘d love to compare notes,” Katsoudas said. ”It’s exciting for us to have partners be a part of this program.”

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins in June delayed the company's biggest event of the year, Cisco Live, a day before kickoff following the death of George Floyd and resulting protests. “At Cisco, we have always aspired to foster an environment of dignity, respect, fairness and equality for all,” Robbins said in a video statement at the time.

Katsoudas, a member of Cisco‘s Executive Leadership Team, said that rather than assigning diversity initiatives to one group, Cisco is “baking in” actions into every leader’s role and within their teams. Cisco leaders will be held accountable at the end of the company’s fiscal year in July for meeting their specific goals.

“These actions were built with every leader looking at their space and questioning what more we could do,” she said. ”We setting up this structure to really measure how we‘re doing.”

To ensure equal pay for equal work, Cisco is expanding its existing global pay parity program to include not just the examination of salaries, but also promotions, stock and bonuses, Katsoudas said. “We don‘t talk about promotion parity as much. We want to look at all the individuals across Cisco that are getting promoted and [ask ourselves ] if we see balance and equity in that process,” she said.

Further, Cisco will support policies, legislation, and organizations that are working to ensure equal rights for Black people in 2020 and into the future. This work will include supporting national policing reform efforts and advocating for the development of a commission to examine systemic discrimination in the U.S., Katsoudas said.

Cisco will also give all its employees a day off to vote, the company said.