Cisco Promises to Increase Black Representation in Workforce


Cisco Systems Inc. pledged to increase the number of Black employees and leaders, adding its name to a list of technology companies promising to try to fix the lack of diversity in their workforces.

The biggest maker of networking equipment said its goal is to increase the company’s workforce of Black people by 25% by 2023 in the entry-level to manager levels. In the director to vice president ranks, the San Jose, California-based company said Wednesday that it wants to raise black representation by 75%. Overall, Cisco pledged to create pay parity and promotion fairness.

Silicon Valley companies are under pressure to match their in-house actions to the proclamations of support they made in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, an event that energized the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted a nationwide focus on racial inequity. Statistics show that most U.S. technology companies don’t have enough Black employees to make their workforces representative of the general population.

Cisco was relatively quick to respond after Floyd’s death, but has faced some internal difficulties in the process. It fired some employees for their behavior during an all-hands meeting on video to discuss race.

Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins said the companywide video call was part of the process of creating an atmosphere that makes it OK for such difficult topics to be discussed. That’s the role leaders should take and the response of employees, in this case Cisco’s Black workers, should help determine what action is taken, he said in an interview at the Bloomberg Equality Summit.

“Empathy is nice, but it’s time for action,” Robbins said. “We have a lot to learn. We have a long way to go, but we’re making progress.”

In the U.S., 3.8% of Cisco’s workers are Black, according to its most recent corporate and social responsibility report. For technical positions roles, the number falls to 3.3%, followed by 1.8% of vice presidents. There are no Black executives on Cisco’s leadership team.

The company said it will invest in the next generation of Black technology leaders by providing money and support to historically Black colleges and universities. It will also create a $50 million venture investment fund to help startups with diverse founders and leadership and will advocate for social change, police reform and give employees a paid day off to vote.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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