The telco Industry and gender balance

15 April 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

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As the conversation of gender parity in our industry wages on, Capacity speaks to Alastair Masson, head of telco media at NTT Data UK, about how the industry can tackle this growing problem and what NTT Data is doing to address it.

What is the current situation with the gender balance in the telco industry?

Within IT and Network functions, the workforce is typically male dominated. The sector has traditionally attracted male workers and the male dominated workplace is a potential barrier to attracting more women into the sector, particularly for senior positions. Recent statistics have revealed that there a long way to go to encourage women into the UK technology sector in general. Currently, only 17% of employees in the UK technology sector are women; only one in six school leavers starting a degree in computer science in 2016 was female and the total number of girls taking either ICT or computer science at GCSE fell by 12% in the same year.

Why is gender balance important?

A diverse workforce brings a great deal of benefit in creating positive attitudes, ways of working, thinking, and ideas creation. Gender is just one aspect of diversity, but an important one in forming a more holistic approach to work and business.

By actively embracing people of any age, experience level and background, the industry can create a workforce that increases collaboration, brings different perspectives and opinions, and offers that holistic view of the business and the future.

It’s also important that we can reflect the diverse nature of some of our clients. The majority of our clients have worked hard to address the gender balance within their organisations. It’s crucial that we mirror this; by building a diverse team that’s a genuine reflection of the customers you serve supports a deeper understanding of their needs and increases the opportunities to form those all-important human and more personalised connections that customers seek and value. We have done well at many levels within our consulting business and this year recruited a 50/50 gender balance., the focus now must be on seeing this balance across our business at every level.

What does the sector need to do to address the gender imbalance?

The Telco industry must work to position itself as attractive to all genders and ensure inclusivity at all levels. This means working form the ground up with attracting entry level talent, mentoring through school’s programmes and internal talent programmes as well as ensuring that the historical masculine image of technology and particularly technology sales is replaced by a balanced and thoughtful approach to solutions and outcomes.

When setting out to redress the gender imbalance, the Telco industry is already at a disadvantage. While we saw notable percentage increases in girls taking A-level STEM subjects in 2018, the actual number of female entrants is relatively small; for example, just 10% of Computing A-level entrants in 2018 were female and females also only account for 17% of the UK tech workforce.

Women in senior positions demonstrate to others that career progression and leadership are not only possible, but a reality. The underrepresentation of women in technology has created a barrier to hiring senior women, so the focus must be on breaking down this barrier. If the sector attracts more women into leadership positions, it will  become more appealing to female talent at all levels.

What is NTT Data UK doing to address the gender imbalance and attract more women into the telco sector?

At NTT Data we have a healthy balance in the intake of new employees into consulting. We have worked hard to get to a position of 50:50 male female recruits for 2018; this is above industry average and something we are very proud of.

Our recruitment team have worked with the business to ensure that we are doing everything we can to eliminate gender bias in attraction and recruitment, from understanding the way job adverts are written to ensuring a gender balanced interviewer pool is available for the selection process. Our goal is to continue to maintain this above-average figure and to actively encourage senior female talent into our organisation. If we can attract more senior women, then we will become more appealing to female talent at all levels.

Our approach is about promoting a positive work environment for everyone, where different voices are encouraged and heard. It’s about offering a combination of challenging and motivating roles, career progression and providing genuine support for work-life balance. For example, we offer those returning from maternity leave the option to work a 4-day week, whilst getting paid for five. This return-to-work policy is available for the first three months, and we hope that it will make the transition easier after what can sometimes be a full year away. Our Client Partners can be located countrywide and not tied to the Central London office and we can facilitate flexibility in working hours and days where appropriate. For example, we have a client partner who works mixed hours to enable childcare to work for him and his family and we have and another who works a 4-day week, again to help facilitate the complex lifestyle of working parents. It’s about results and initiative and not just being in the office.

Oveall at NTT Data we champion an environment where people of any gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity can bring new viewpoints, think differently, act differently and work differently. In this way, multiple perspectives are shared and considered, and this ultimately leads to better decision making for the business as a whole and these benefits can be passed on to our clients through improved thinking and delivery.

Can you highlight any initiatives that NTT Data UK is running to address the issue of equality in the telco industry?

The NTT Data UK Women’s Business Network was created as part of our drive to embrace workplace diversity. The network is in place to support the business success of NTT Data UK’s female employees, provide opportunities for women in our workforce to connect with one another and give women a voice in discussing global and regional topics that are relevant to our business and our customers.

NTT Data UK is also proud to be a member of the 30% Club. The 30% Club is a campaign first launched back in 2010, with a goal of achieving a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards. Recognising that better gender balance leads to better results, NTT Data UK is proud to maintain this percentage of women sitting on our leadership team.

NTT Data UK is now entering into our third year of partnering with The Girls’ Network. The Girls’ Network is a fantastic charity that seeks to inspire and empower girls aged 14-19 years old from the least advantaged communities by connecting them with a mentor and a network of professional female role models.

This year we have fourteen women from our business signed up as mentors, who will each be matched with a schoolgirl for a year of 1-2-1 mentoring. Our mentors will be supporting these young women with a range of topics from confidence-building and other soft skills, through to writing CVs and university applications.