News Release

Cisco Helps Women in Emerging Markets Embrace the Need for Technology Skills as International Women's Day is Celebrated

Value of Cisco Networking Academy Program Demonstrates Support for Female Gender Initiatives in Middle East & Africa; Central & Eastern Europe; and Latin America
Mar 08, 2007

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 8, 2007 - Female students at a college in Dubai, groups of women in Central and Eastern Europe and an under-privileged, 18 year-old Chilean girl all have one thing in common: a desire to improve their IT skills and reap the benefits that empowerment can deliver. These are examples highlighted at an event in Dubai today, where Cisco detailed news on a number of female gender initiatives and success stories in the developing world. Cisco, a supporter of International Women's Day, has also launched a new website that illustrates ongoing gender activities within the company.

The initiatives and success stories include a Cisco investment in a Linksys® Digital Home and Small Business project with Dubai Women's College; Cisco's 'F_email' project in Hungary, Serbia and Turkey; Cisco's work with the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Middle East & Africa; and the story of Caterin Retamales, a young woman who, originally from a rural Chilean community, has now been able to fulfill her dreams and secure her future by taking the opportunity to improve her IT skills.

All of these stories have another thing in common: the Cisco Networking Academy® program, which has helped bridge the networking and information and communications technology (ICT) skills gap around the world and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in October 2007. Since its inception, Cisco's Networking Academy has spread to more than 165 countries and more than 2 million students have graduated from more than 10,000 Academies located in high schools, technical schools, colleges, universities, and community-based organizations.

"Improving technical skills, especially amongst women, is key as the network has become the fabric that helps people to communicate, collaborate, and conduct business ," commented Sue Bostrom, Cisco's Chief Marketing Officer and senior vice president of Global Policy and Government Affairs, "Our work with women through Cisco's Networking Academy program and support for International Women's Day illustrates how important Cisco believes diversity and the role of women in technology is, both within Cisco and outside."

The initiatives and success stories announced today include:

  • Digital Home and Small Business project at Dubai Women's College
    Linksys, a division of Cisco, and Dubai Women's College will soon begin a new Digital Home and Small Business project. The goal is to increase technology awareness and encourage entrepreneurial activities among the student community at Dubai's leading women's college. The engagement will include a full product demonstration suite at the college with training for students who run it; the opportunity for students to set up small businesses to sell the digital home network products demonstrated there; and the availability of part-time jobs in Dubai retail stores to gain experience and associated qualifications.
  • "Since its inception in 1989, the Dubai Women's College has furthered its commitment to developing the educational and technology skills of women in the UAE," said Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf, associate director of Dubai Women's College, "We have worked with leading technology firms, such as Cisco, to revolutionize the level of IT knowledge amongst our female students. Our main objective was to create insights, opportunities, growth and development for women within the information and communications technology sector."

    She added: "The introduction of Cisco Networking Academy at Dubai Women's College was highly received by our female students. We are looking forward to a long-term relationship with Cisco and to the key role they play in the development of local technology skills."

  • 'F_email' project - a new Cisco initiative in Hungary, Serbia and Turkey
    The 'F_email' project has been created to help women who are currently excluded from the skilled segment of the labor market. Although the three countries in question have differing levels of female integration in the job market, they face the same challenge; providing high quality jobs for women. The project aims to set up a professional pool of women and improve their ICT skills so they have a better chance of getting jobs in the technology industry. A curriculum has been created that includes soft skills, such as job seeking and communication, and basic computer and IT networking skills. Cisco's Networking Academy program has been instrumental in developing the this and coordinating the project. Cisco's Public Benefit Investment group has provided the funds and soft skills content. It is also participating in the development of a website that will provide the platform for an international network through which women in different countries will interact.
  • Cisco and United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Africa & Middle East
    Activities between UNIFEM and Cisco Networking Academy in Africa are being piloted early in 2007. They involve investment by UNIFEM and Cisco to roll out female-focused IT Essentials Academies in Zimbabwe and Zambia. In Zimbabwe the project will be set up at an all-female university and a teacher training college. In Zambia classes will start in a teacher training college and an all female secondary school. These African inititives are in addition to existing activities involving UNIFEM and Cisco Networking Academy in Jordan, Morocco and Lebanon. 34 academies have been established through the UNIFEM/Cisco activities in the three countries. More than 1000 graduates with CCNA certifications are enrolled, of whom 55% are female. In Jordan 500 out of 600 CCNA graduates joined the ICT Job market.
  • Caterin Retamales - Rural Chilean community to telecommunications manager
    Caterin Retamales' story started in rural Chile; a country of more than 15 million people, where women outnumber men. Early in life her parents decided to migrate from Quilicura, the rural community where they lived, to the city of La Florida. She is the oldest of three sisters and the first in her family to graduate from high school, where she graduated from Cisco Networking Academy program at the Semper Altius High School of La Florida in 2005. This helped Caterin to follow in the footsteps of her uncle and start a career in telecommunications. In October 2006, Caterin was promoted to manager of three engineering sites working for Telefónica. She is one of only two women in the field, which reflects the low number of females working as engineers in the IT industry in Chile. Her case is an example of the progress being made though, and Caterin is very proud of her achievements.
  • "I think it is very important for women to dare to study telecommunications and networks, since it is not as difficult as it seems," comments Catrerin, "You just need to use your intelligence and dare to be part of women's intellectual development in the IT field; telecommunications is a lot of fun and you can achieve a lot."

Cisco itself is aware of the need for increased female participation in the technology industry. Dedicated programs and resources help women within Cisco to develop their skills as managers and executives. Cisco also actively leads and participates in educational and activities worldwide that aims to increase young women's interest in careers in the technology industry.

Cisco's Gender Diversity Council is made up of senior executives representing every Cisco business function. The Council oversees hiring, development and advancement, retention, and culture initiatives throughout the company to reinforce the culture of inclusion at Cisco. Some of these initiatives include support for 34 Women Networks around the world and development programs that provide exposure to role models and mentors.

More information on Cisco's Diversity female gender initiative can be found at a website launched today to illustrate Cisco's wealth of female talent:

About Dubai Women's College

Founded in 1989, Dubai Women's College (DWC) opened its doors with 145 students. These young ladies were leading the way for the future of women in the UAE, not only by getting an education but also by opening doors for the generations to come to join the work force. Many of these DWC graduates are now in high ranking positions in both the public and private sectors. Several examples include the first UAE National Vice President at Citibank, Director of Marketing at Emirates Post, Director of the Dubai Press Club, the Director of the Dubai Ladies Club and Director of Sharjah Ladies Club.

Since 1989, the number of students attending has grown to more than 2,200. DWC now offers courses in Business, Information Technology, Health Science, Communication Technology and Education. These majors have been developed in response to the demands of the marketplace.

Today, DWC is the leading provider of top-quality national women graduates in Dubai. Our more than 2, 900 graduates are among the first national women to be selected to head important departments in Dubai and to take on leading roles in multinational companies. The Executive Office, Dubai Internet City, the Dubai Department for Economic Development, the Ruler's Court, Etisalat, Citibank, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Television, Ministry of Health, Emirates Airlines, Emaar, Emirates Bank Group and Enoc are a few of the many employers of DWC graduates.

More info at