Cisco Chief Customer & Partner Officer Gerri Elliott shares how to #breakthebias at our companies and in our communities.
Mar 08, 2022

Happy International Women’s Day – an incredibly important and special day of celebration and recognition. It’s a chance to connect with our global community of women and allies, to learn from each other, and to reflect on how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have left to go. #BreakTheBias captures that spirit perfectly. It speaks to the past, present, and future of this great movement. 

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Women who paved the way and broke down barriers so that we could have these opportunities. This includes luminaries like Madeleine Albright and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but it’s also the lesser known and the rarely celebrated, our moms, our neighbors, our teachers, our friends, our mentors. 

We are standing on all their shoulders. The women before us built the bridge. It’s our job to make that bridge a little bit sturdier and a little bit wider so that even more women can cross next time. 

The International Women’s Day website has some helpful resources and clear actions we can all take to continue to #breakthebias at our companies and in our communities. And throughout my own career, I’ve learned a few tricks – from others and from my own experiences – that I’d like to share as well.   

#BreakTheBias in yourself

One of the things that I’ve learned in my 43 years in tech is that having a real impact starts with knowing what makes you unique, what makes you an individual. Your magic, your superpower, your intrinsic value. Maybe you already know what that is. Maybe you need someone else to see it and show you what you might already suspect. I needed the help. I needed managers and colleagues along the way to see what I couldn’t see for myself…and I will always be grateful for those gifts. 

Either way, keep trying new things, and seeking guidance and new experiences, until you find that one thing about yourself that sets you apart. That sweet spot where your strengths and your passions align. That’s your superpower. 

#BreakTheBias around asking for help

I mentioned superpowers above, but we have to always remember that vulnerability is also a superpower. We’ve known this for a while, but Covid has been a stark reminder of just how true and important this really is. One of the things that I always say to my team when the pressure is on, is to “offer help if you can provide it, and ask for help if you need it.” The asking is the hardest part in that equation, and it’s even harder for women. 

But think for a moment of all the women, or just people in general, who YOU would feel privileged to help. Well, there are others out there who would feel the same way about supporting you. Author Kiera Cass said, “Accepting help is its own kind of strength.” We need to not only encourage that, we need to celebrate it.

#BreakTheBias about allyship

There is an incredible power behind a determined woman, or better yet, a group of determined women. But when that group is surrounded by people, or allies, that are supporting them and lifting them up, that is when real change is made. If one thing has become clear throughout my career, and the only woman in the room for the majority of it, it’s that we cannot do this alone. The challenges are too big, the systems too rigid and antiquated, the bias too ingrained in our companies and cultures. We need an army of allies, especially now in this new hybrid world.

But being an ally, or allyship, extends beyond just standing up for an underrepresented group of people. Kalani Tonga, an author, editor, and mother, said this: “Be mindful of which voices are missing from the table. Seek out and amplify those voices.” True allyship is when support is turned into action.

It’s our time. Our time to take what the Madeleines and Ruths of the world, and our moms, neighbors, teachers, and friends have created for us, and build on that strength, that perseverance, that power. It’s our time to #BreakTheBias.


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