Cisco CEO Meets Sheryl Sandberg: 'My Eyes Were Opened'

John Chambers, Cisco Systems CEOWhile Sheryl Sandberg's feminist tome has elicited criticism from some women, interestingly, at least some male business leaders have been supportive of her message. First, Henry Blodget, founder of Business Insider, exhorted people to read her book. And now, according to a report by All Things Digital, John Chambers, Cisco Systems CEO, has been so inspired by Sandberg's crusade to get more women into leadership positions that he's demanding his managers to come up with a plan to diversify the ranks.

Sandberg's book, Lean In, has provoked controversy for her assertions that the "men still run the world" (which is supported by data collected by many research organizations, such as Catalyst) and that women hold themselves back by listening to their inner doubts. From Susan Faludi, the feminist author, to Penelope Trunk, a career coach, some women have complained that Sandberg's vision of corporate success is limiting.

But after meeting with Sandberg and reading her book, Chambers seems to have had his consciousness raised on the issue. "I have not consistently walked the talk," he wrote in an internal email, obtained by All Things Digital.

He ordered his top managers to "come up with new women-focused initiatives," according to All Things D, and he also acknowledged in an internal email that his leadership had been lacking. "While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven't made in the last decade," he wrote. Like many tech giants, Cisco remains male-dominated in the management ranks, with only 25 percent of the employees and top execs female. You can read his whole memo here.

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