Are You AI-Ready? Cisco Networking Academy Is Closing the Gender Gap in AI

By Laura Quintana
Mar 28, 2024 7:45 AM ET
4 people meet around a computer

LinkedIn workforce data shows that women are still significantly underrepresented in the Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM). Despite making up almost half (49.3%) of total employment across non-STEM occupations, women represent just 29.2% of all STEM workers.

As technology moves quickly, that underrepresentation shapes the technology of tomorrow as well as amplifies existing gender bias in technology. As Cisco’s corporate purpose is to power an inclusive future for all, Cisco Networking Academy chooses to take action to address gender parity in tech by encouraging young girls and women to consider STEM as a career option.

AI is not new

The idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not new. Metropolis, the classic Fritz Lang film featured a humanoid robot in 1927. Even in academia the interest in AI and machine learning dates back more than half a century. Alan Turing wrote a paper on Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950.

Despite what seems like a long history, it took the confluence of increased computational capacity, big data, and years of research and training before AI genuinely burst into the mainstream in 2023. One third of respondents to McKinsey’s Global Survey last year said their organizations are using generative AI regularly in at least one business function. This is less than a year after many of these tools debuted.

The AI revolution

AI is now seen as a revolution with organizations and people working diligently to understand opportunities and implications.

Along with revolutions come challenges, however. Cisco’s position on AI is that while there is enormous positive potential for humanity, we must deploy the technology responsibly. Cisco research reveals there are gaps in preparedness for the AI revolution in 86 percent of global organizations.

In our recent Quarterly Student Outcome Survey,* 63 percent of Cisco Networking Academy students tell us they are using AI today and 17 percent already have advanced skills in this area. We are proud our students are at the leading edge of technology learning. In fact, 88 percent of our students believe Cisco Networking Academy is at the forefront of this rapidly evolving tech world.

Unfortunately, we are already seeing a gender gap in AI.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), women comprise only 22 percent of AI professionals globally, only 18 percent of authors at leading AI conferences are women, and only 2 percent of venture capital flowed to start-ups founded by women in 2019.

Equally troubling, the WEF believes this gender gap in AI is self-perpetuating.

“There is an urgent need to rebalance the situation for women in AI to avoid biased analyzes and to build technologies that take into account the expectations and needs of all of humanity,” says Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General.

Are you AI-ready?

Celebrating its 10th year in 2024, Cisco Networking Academy’s Women Rock-IT program is a global initiative aimed at closing the gender gap in the technology industry by encouraging young women to pursue careers in tech.

The program highlights successful women in tech as role models and provides free introductory tech courses through Cisco Networking Academy. Since its inception, Women Rock-IT has seen more than two million participants and 870,000 course enrolments.​

On International Girls in ICT Day on April 25, 2024, Women Rock-IT will host a special event that aims to empower our audience by providing immediate, actionable steps to become AI-ready. We underscore the need to develop skills to harness the vast potential of AI and machine learning for businesses, public services, and society at large.

Cisco supports Girls in ICT Day 2024

This year more than 240 Cisco volunteers are organizing events and inviting local schools to visit Cisco offices to see what types of careers are available in the world of tech.

Over 250 Cisco Networking instructors have registered to run classes in Introduction to Cybersecurity and Introduction to Data Science as part of a Global Learn-A-Thon to introduce new students to the world of tech and to consider technology as a career pathway.

And a worldwide virtual broadcast in multiple time-zones will feature speakers with expertise in AI. These speakers are using artificial intelligence to forward developments in areas such as nature conservation and human development.

Meet the speakers

We are thrilled to announce our two speakers who are women at the cutting edge of the AI revolution:

Nadin Kokciyan — Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.

Nadine is deeply involved in ethical and future-oriented studies of technology as a Senior Research Affiliate at the Centre for Technomoral Futures, Edinburgh Futures Institute.

As the director of the Human-Centered AI Lab (CHAI Lab), Nadin’s work emphasizes the development and study of AI systems that prioritize human needs and values. Additionally, her affiliations with the Artificial Intelligence and its Applications Institute (AIAI), the Security and Privacy group, and the Technology Usability Lab In Privacy and Security (TULiPS) underline her multifaceted approach to AI research.

Nadin aims to bridge the gap between technical AI advancements and their societal implications, ensuring that AI development aligns with ethical standards and contributes positively to human welfare.

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf — Director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute, Ohio State University

Tanya is a professor of Computer Science Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the Ohio State University. As a computational ecologist, her research is at the unique intersection of computer science, wildlife biology, and social sciences.

Tanya is a member of the US National Academies Board on Life Sciences and CNRS International Scientific Advisory Board, Artificial Intelligence for Science, Science for Artificial Intelligence (AISSA) Centre. She also sits on advisory boards for Conservation X Labs and the Ocean Vision AI (OVAI) project.

She is also co-founder of the AI for wildlife conservation software non-profit Wild Me, home of the Wildbook project, which has been chosen by UNSECO as one of the top AI 100 projects worldwide supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, Tanya was awarded a US National Science Foundation grant to establish a new field of study: Imageomics.

As a computational ecologist, her research is at the unique intersection of computer science, wildlife biology, and social sciences.

AI everywhere

Artificial Intelligence will affect everyone and every business. From nature conservation, to the fashion industry, and education, AI will have an impact.

Join us for Women Rock-IT on April 25. Start exploring how you can use AI for an AI-fueled career boost. Hear from real-time innovators and leaders in their fields. Ask your questions and access free entry-level courses from Cisco Networking Academy to get started right away.

Register now for the Women Rock-IT virtual event on April 25!

Are You AI-Ready? Unlocking nature’s secrets: how AI & Data save wildlife

Check registration page for your local broadcast time.

*Based on Q2 FY24 Cisco Networking Academy survey responses of 1400 students

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