Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Cisco embraces equitable Inclusive Future for All


The 8th of March is International Women's Day (IWD), which began in 1911 and continues to this day in "celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women."
This year's theme is "embrace equity," which emphasises the distinction between equity and equality.

“Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome,” said the Milken Institute School of Public Health  in a statement.

Cisco's mission is to Power an Inclusive Future for All, and we recognize the importance of gender equity in achieving this goal. As a result, we asked women leaders from Cisco Social Innovation Investments (SII) partners, "How are you increasing equity in your work?" and this is what they had to say about it.

Olasimbo Sojinrin, COO of Solar Sister
The COO of Solar Sister, Olasimbo Sojinrin, is passionate about using renewable energy to empower women entrepreneurs in rural Africa. She believes that Solar Sister's work is about more than just promoting equality; it is also about increasing equity.

“Equality means treating everyone the same, while equity means giving everyone what they need to succeed. Solar Sister is increasing equity by providing women with the tools and resources they need to thrive in the clean energy sector.”

Because each woman's life and needs are unique, we tailor our training and business strategy to accommodate these differences. Solar Sister promotes diversity and ensures that no woman is left behind by providing them with the tools to adapt the model to their specific needs.

Solar Sister's approach promotes gender equity in addition to addressing energy poverty. Solar Sister challenges traditional gender roles by meeting women where they are and increasing women's economic independence, promoting them as business owners, and allowing them to generate income.

This approach not only assists female entrepreneurs in succeeding, but it also has a positive impact on their families and communities. "By having access to clean energy, women can save money on fuel and invest in their businesses and families," she explains. "This results in a more sustainable, equitable future for everyone."

Solar Sister promotes equity by addressing the specific needs and challenges of women in rural Africa and providing them with the resources they require to succeed in the clean energy sector.

Chandra Roxanne, Managing Director, Astia Edge
Chandra Roxanne joined Astia’s  Investment team a year ago as Managing Director of Astia Edge.

“Equality levels the playing field by removing the barriers to access. Equity, however, is focused on repair; it is two-fold. First, equity acknowledges the gaps in access created by chronic inequality that remain when the barriers are removed.

Second, equity fills the void. Since discovering racial bias against Black women and Latina founders in its investment decision-making process, Astia has acknowledged the gaps and our role in creating them in our paper, Astia Edge: Our Failure to Invest in Black Founders and What We've Done About It.

Following our recognition, we set out to close the funding gap in relation to Astia by launching the Astia Edge Fund. This fund will make investments in high-performing seed-stage businesses founded and led by Black women and Latinas.

“Beyond offering bespoke access to our network, we position said companies to achieve great returns by right-sizing the seed-stage check. Through a right-sized check we aim to address perpetual undercapitalization and underfunding which stifles the ability of said companies to compete and scale. To truly move the needle, equality must work in tandem with equity. And In truth, the work of increasing equity is humbling, requiring courage and intentionality.”

Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, President and CEO of Trickle Up
Trickle Up’s  mission is to partner with women in extreme poverty to build economic opportunity and drive inclusion. The amazing women we have the privilege of working with in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are forging resilient pathways out of poverty and increasing their confidence and agency, buoyed by the solidarity they find in women’s savings groups,” said Nathalie.

Women are frequently marginalized in rural communities experiencing extreme poverty, lacking rights, opportunities, and a voice. Women, on the other hand, are change agents. We create an enabling environment for women to create their own economic empowerment by providing training, mentorship, seed capital, and the formation of all-women savings groups.
We build equity by accompanying participants on their journeys to become microentrepreneurs, community leaders, and even political candidates.

“Equity is about having the tools you need to succeed, working in solidarity to change not only cultural and normative barriers holding all women back but celebrating an individual’s belief in herself. One day, we’ll live in a world where equality in opportunity, regardless of gender, race, and background, exists. Until then, we must invest in equity by providing inclusive opportunities for the economic, social, and political empowerment of women, resulting in the equality we seek.”

Anushka Ratnayake, Founder and CEO, myAgro
myAgro  helps small-scale farmers generate more wealth from their farms by closing the equity gap: farmers in the west have easy access to data, technology, and technical expertise but farmers in Africa do not. Our layaway model makes it affordable for farmers to access the modern techniques and supports—seeds, insurance, fertilizer—to double their harvests and increase their incomes by 50 percent. We use data and technology to lower the cost of serving farmers, making access to information more equitable for farmers living in rural and remote areas of Africa,” said Ratnayake.

“We recognize equality is not the same as equity. Women do the majority of farming in Africa, but they get less than a third of the support! In order to close this gap, we take an extra step to design specifically for women like Awa in Mali [pictured in the photo at the top of this blog]. She plants food crops her family eats – like peanuts and okra instead of cash crops like the men in her village who plant maize and cotton. We make it easy for Awa, who earns small amounts of money by selling goods in her village, to make a payment of as little as $1 at a time towards her peanut and vegetable farms. And the results are amazing! Awa has transformed her life over the 5 years she’s been with myAgro—she’s eating 3 meals a day thanks to her bigger harvest, and with her profits, she reconstructed her house to be safer for her kids. She dreamt of owning a store, and now with her profits, she has built a small store next to her house to earn income year-round.”

Female farmers like Awa can overcome the additional barriers to success in a male-dominated space when solutions are designed with women in mind.

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, CEO, Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps  exists to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. We support communities—and the most marginalized within them—to emerge from crisis and build towards a more inclusive, resilient future,” said McKenna.

Women play an important role in achieving long-term development goals, and investing in them is critical to accelerating sustainable development.

When it comes to supporting women and girls around the world, the real issue isn't women—their ability or confidence—but rather the systems that have been designed to exclude them. Equality is the ultimate goal—a state of balanced power relations in which all people have equal rights, responsibilities, opportunities, and decision-making authority—and gender equity is the path to get there, recognising that not everyone starts at the same place. It is the equitable treatment of all people in accordance with their individual needs.

“Through our operations, culture, and programming, we strive to eliminate inequitable power dynamics, address the systems that perpetuate discrimination and abuse of power, and foster a culture of equity, integrity, and accountability.”

Erin Davis, COO and Co-Founder, Enduring Planet
Enduring Planet is a fintech lending platform based in Portland, Oregon that provides founder-friendly growth capital to climate tech startups.

Enduring Planet, a Cisco Foundation Climate Impact Portfolio investee, makes broad investments in small and midsized businesses (SMBs) and startups in the United States addressing the climate crisis, providing these businesses with revenue-based financing and grant advances.

Teams working to reduce emissions, remove carbon from the atmosphere, or support greater resilience and adaptation to the effects of climate change are examples of this.

“At Enduring Planet, a woman-led company, we bake equity into every aspect of our company and how we fund climate entrepreneurs. From the core structure of our products to our marketing strategy to our screening, funding, and ongoing monitoring processes, we go beyond reducing bias to actively and consciously rewarding inclusivity among teams, their leadership, and their mission. Roughly 80 percent of our investments have gone to startups with an underrepresented founder, a diverse team, or companies serving marginalized communities,” said Davis.

“We understand the challenges that entrepreneurs face and aim to be true partners in their growth, fundraising, and development; offering fast, flexible financing is just one way we can help them.”

Heejae Lim, Founder and CEO, Talking Points
“At TalkingPoints, we believe in the untapped potential of families to support their child’s learning. Embedded in our work is a relentless focus on removing systemic barriers such as language or capacity that often prevent educators and families—particularly those from underserved communities—from engaging with one another,” said Lim.

“Equal access for families to information about their children is the first step. Equity is when the information is understandable, contextualized, and culturally sensitive so that they are able to develop meaningful relationships with their child’s teachers. We want every teacher to start off the school year by asking families about their child: what their hopes and dreams are for their child, and how they can partner, together, in achieving the academic and other goals both parties want to see”.

Families are the most knowledgeable about their children, and when schools include families as members of the learning team, student learning can really accelerate.

Dr. Sandra S. Slutz, Vice President of STEM Education, Science Buddies
At Science Buddies, Dr. Sandra Slutz, Ph.D., oversees the creation of inclusive educational content. ScienceBuddies.org provides a large library of free, high-quality, hands-on STEM resources that use low-cost, readily available materials to make engaging STEM learning available to a global K-12 audience. Sandra earned a Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University, where she also worked on undergraduate curriculum development for a new suite of introductory biology laboratory courses.

Science Buddies continues to push the boundaries of going beyond equal opportunities in STEM education and creating equitable access for girls and young women to pursue STEM education and careers under Sandra's leadership, revealed Sandra.

“We’ve developed an engaging array of popular K-12 projects in rapidly evolving scientific areas, including biomedical sciences, nanotechnology, and robotics. We’ve also built an Academic Outreach Partnership program which facilitates the transfer of cutting-edge research in academic institutes into hands-on inquiry projects for the Science Buddies Project Idea library.”

Science Buddies is excited to prepare today's girls to succeed in the STEM careers of the future.