A day in the life of... Stephanie Liston, founder and director of Women in Telecoms and Technology

01 January 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Stephanie Liston has “a portfolio of things that I do now”, including consulting on international strategy, and being a board director, lawyer and regulator.

But one of the things that’s closest to her heart is Women in Telecoms and Technology (WiTT), the group she helped to found in 2000 “because I was lonely – often I was the only woman in the room”.

Many others talked about similar experiences at Capacity Europe in October when Liston (pictured) chaired our panel on women in telecoms. “I’m absolutely passionate about helping women in the industry.”

How do you get more women into the industry? “You have to start early, to show girls and young women that telecoms isn’t just a male environment.”

It was law that brought Liston from the US to the UK in the 1990s, working for MCI, the US company that had helped to overturn the monopoly of Ma Bell, the old AT&T. A few years later MCI nearly merged with BT until BT cut its offer by 20% and WorldCom stepped in.

A few years ago Liston was on the board of Ofcom, the UK regulator, and later on the BT Equality of Access Board: nothing to do with women in telecoms, it was a BT committee that ensured all operators had equal access to BT’s wholesale infrastructure in the UK.

She also spent time as the chief legal advisor to the telecoms regulator in the British Virgin Islands. She is still doing consultancy work for that regulator.

“I’m looking for new board roles with companies or regulators, where I can add value by providing international strategic advice”. Liston is working with the consultancy Frontier Economics on topics such as spectrum regulation for mobile telecoms and structural separation in the fixed area.

“I think we’re going to see more structural separation as margins are squeezed,” she says. “We’re working on spectrum proposals and on removing unnecessary regulations.” Liston is surprised many telcos have pulled back from data centres and other sectors. “Telcos were so hurt in the early 2000s. They need to look carefully and afresh at the assets they have and consider how to maximise value and revenue.”