Women and diversity in telecoms: laying the foundations for equity
Verizon Partner Solutions has sought to blaze a trail at the forefront of industry initiatives to drive diversity, while promoting outreach and volunteering. VPS's Jennifer Parkhill, Saida Ruscitto and Lorraine Nieto talk about the latest steps in this journey and their roles at the company.
How do you see the situation at Verizon Partner Solutions [VPS] with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI], and across the wholesale industry overall?
Jennifer Parkhill (JP): VPS has long embodied the theme that all voices should be heard and have a seat at the table. At our annual Partner Summit last September, there were more women than I’ve seen at previous ones. The awareness that we all need to do more continues to grow and this provides opportunities for us all to make a difference.
Saida Ruscitto (SR): The leadership teams at both Verizon and VPS are being intentional about promoting diversity and inclusion. At our summit and the events we sponsor, as well as with the people we talk to, I feel the influence of our outreach within our customer base, where we see more inclusion over time.
You definitely see the movement the closer you come to the Verizon community, though there’s more work to be done.
What are some of the key ways in which Verizon and VPS promote DEI?
Lorraine Nieto (LN): Verizon putting out its first Human Capital Report in 2021, which covered the previous year, has raised awareness because that was a diversity breakdown across all levels of management and associate employees. It’s a great step forward to put it out there so it’s no longer the elephant in the room and we can address it proactively.
JP: VPS president Eric Cevis chairs the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Working Group at industry body the Global Leaders’ Forum [GLF]. The group released its first-ever industry paper on gender imbalance in the telco industry in June 2020 and continues to track progress in the industry via its annual industry papers.
The company also supports women through mentorship, development programmes and employee resource groups. In VPS, Saida, Lorraine and I have been co-leaders of a women’s empowerment group that we started about six months ago with the purpose of trying to cultivate and provide networking opportunities for females in our organisation.
How are you seeking to inspire volunteering at VPS?
LN: I serve on our VPS core volunteering team led by Jennifer. With the help of that, our organisation achieved an 80% employee participation rate in volunteering activities in 2022.
I am also a global volunteer co-lead for our SOMOS employee resource group, which represents our Latino employees across the globe. I engage with non-profits in our communities to create volunteer events and then participate in those too.
Last year, our employee resource group created 35 events and contributed over 4,000 hours towards Verizon’s goal of 2.5 million volunteer hours by 2025. This year, our goal is 6,000 hours.
Can you tell me a bit about your role at VPS and your current main focus areas?
SR: I take responsibility for product marketing. My approach is to focus on positioning the right products that enhance customer experience and fulfil needs. We see demand for higher bandwidth continuing, so we have to make sure our network can support that. We’re also focusing on including virtualisation and software-defined networking as we position our strategic wireline products, as well as enabling an easy transition from legacy TDM services.
One set of tools I’m excited about is in the artificial-intelligence space to help generate marketing material and create products.
LN: My role is within client services, where our digital transformation goal is to make it easier for our partners to do business with Verizon. We have the ability to put our customers in the driver’s seat of their self-service experience so they can get the information they want at the touch of a button. We’re doing that via our VPS Exchange platform, which provides an online digital experience.
JP: I’m involved in strategy execution and programme management. With 5G and IoT bringing use cases across virtually every vertical, part of our job is keeping on top of the trends and requirements beyond today. In this climate, keeping the customer front and centre is key. The opportunities are infinite and it’s exciting to be working with customers to determine what solutions meet their needs.