The year 2020 invoked a national reckoning on racial injustices and inequities that have long plagued our communities. These issues, although not new, brought about unprecedented conversations about race and inequality between family, friends, and throughout Cisco. In the midst of this pivotal time, Cisco’s company mission statement, “To Power an Inclusive Future for All,” had never been more relevant or important.
This mission is meant as a promise for inclusivity; a promise to bridge the gap of inequality, intolerance and injustice throughout the world. As employees, we watched Cisco speak up and take a stand on issues that mattered to the company and to its people. At the Cisco Store, we wanted to give employees an opportunity to express themselves and show their support for this mission that meant a lot to them. With this mission statement in mind, we created the Inclusive Future collection to reflect this mission, with graphics that would convey messages of diversity, equality and inclusion.
How the Connected Black Professionals Collaboration was Born
The Connected Black Professionals Collection was born from the group's passion to create merchandise that was more representative of the group and would specifically amplify Black voices. If you don't know, the Connected Black Professionals is an inclusive community, or employee resource group, that serves as a community for Black employees at Cisco. After collecting feedback from a focus group of members, we found that the group felt they had more to say than the Inclusive Future graphics encompassed.
With this, we saw an opportunity to craft a collection with the Connected Black Professionals that was made for them, by them. For the first time ever, we worked directly with the group to create graphics that would convey the messages that they wanted to tell. The months that followed included several meetings, countless iterations with the Hatch, Cisco’s in-house creative agency, votes and polls in Webex team spaces and open and honest feedback from the group. In honor of Black History month, the Connected Black Professionals collection will launch for purchase next week, and will feature the graphics chosen by the group on a variety of merchandise, from T-shirts and hoodies to water bottles and notebooks. Learn more and connect with the Connected Black Professionals employee resource group here.
Collaboration and Diversity in the Workplace
I had the chance to interview Connected Black Professionals members and the Cisco Store team to learn more about their experience and takeaways from working on this pilot project. We spoke a lot about the importance of continuing to create a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout Cisco. Many times, making the effort to address our differences can be half the battle. In the video below, we hear from group members on how we can all do a better job talking about race.
These discussions won’t always be easy. Kaleigh Bisconti, the Cisco Store project manager that spearheaded the Connected Black Professionals collaboration, was very candid that the biggest challenge of this project was having conversations about race in a work setting for the first time. However, she went on to say, “My biggest takeaway from this experience is that these ‘scary’ conversations aren’t as hard as they’re perceived to be. The more that we talk about race and social justice issues at work, the easier it will get. That’s how we can continue to execute on projects like this, that serve as a catalyst to amplifying underrepresented voices throughout Cisco.”
Open and honest communication was the foundation for success on this project, and it would not have been possible without that dialogue. As we continue to foster this culture of inclusion, we’re learning how to commit to having difficult conversations that will ultimately bring us closer together and cultivate innovation within Cisco.
Cisco is a huge, global company made up of a melting pot of people from different races, cultures and backgrounds. With this diversity throughout the company, it only seems right to create merchandise at the Cisco Store that represents each and every employee. We hope that this new collection is a step in the right direction to making every employee feel heard.
This new, collaborative design process is something we hope to replicate with other inclusive communities throughout Cisco. If you are involved in an employee resource group at Cisco and are interested in collaborating on a collection to amplify your unique voices, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Cisco's Inclusion and Collaboration Communities here.
For every item purchased from this collection, the Connected Black Professionals have elected to donate net proceeds to Cisco’s Fighting Racism and Discrimination Fund, to support organizations working against racism and discrimination in their many, destructive forms. Learn more about the fund here. The collection will be available for purchase beginning next week, on February 8th.
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