A diverse, inclusive and collaborative workplace is something we are proud of at Cisco. Diversity is about embracing differences, and enabling people to bring different strengths to work. There are a number of initiatives close to the hearts of employees on missions to support inclusivity, and one in particular that has been working to generate awareness for the Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) chapter among employees, and support those who need the help, by being there. 

Cisco Disability Awareness Network (CDAN) & Special Needs Children Group

Led by a small group in ANZ, the Cisco Disability Awareness Network aims to drive greater awareness of disability, and create a more inclusive environment. The complimentary Special Needs Children Group works to generate awareness, and support parents with children of special needs by providing a community they can connect with, and seek support from, if they need it.

Megan Bradley Matthews, a Business Operations Manager based in our St Leonards office in Sydney, heads up the  group on the ground. Her mission? “To be there for the one person that may need that support from us.” The team is part of a broader network of employee led teams around the world, all with the same vision.

Destigmatising differences, celebrating different strengths

By generating awareness for differences, it helps to destigmatise differences, helping with broader employment opportunities across Cisco. It means that people are more open to supporting someone who may have challenges, such as sight issues leading to updated signage.

For Autism Awareness Month in April, the team shared a questionnaire to generate awareness for autism, and educate others. Last year, the Cisco offices (as well as virtual attendance) were open to a comedy show with comedians of all abilities, and in previous years the team have invited Cisco Executives to participate in Dining in the Dark, simulating what it may be like to be sight impaired to help drive conversations, and understand challenges and considerations.

Helping people to connect with different backgrounds and experiences than their own is a key step to inclusivity. Embracing differences, and driving awareness for what a person may be going through, and embracing it as a positive message can be powerful for someone with a special needs child. There are also days such as ‘special kids at work’ day that are run across Cisco globally, and Cisco offers ‘rethink’, a global benefit available to all Cisco employees, which supports special needs children with learning challenges.

“As a parent of a child with special needs, you want to make a better world for your child”

For Megan, an inclusive employer and community of peers with shared experiences really helps, as does a flexible working environment, and support from peers. “It allows me to be present in my role, and still support my family.” As an example, Megan used to work an hour a week from a learning support centre, so her son can get the lessons he needs.

The ANZ chapters of these groups have experience a spike in growth recently, as more people sign up to be part of it, staying connected via Webex Teams to chat, share experiences and advice; and be there for someone in their moment of need. “There are moments it can be hard, and having that support can really make a difference.”

“The more we can destigmatise disability, and understand it’s viewed as a difference, and that can be a strength. People view the world in different ways, with different abilities.”

Megan’s mission to make a better world continues, and she would like people to know that she is supported, and Cisco is a truly inclusive employer. “It’s one thing to have it listed on your website, and another to be it.”

“It’s not about disability, it’s about differences, and different strengths we bring to the world. I feel that’s something we embrace at Cisco.”