An industry in transition

An industry in transition #IWD2020

09 March 2020 | Natalie Bannerman

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#EachforEqual is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD). But what does it actually mean? Simply put, we are all equal and individually can do our part in the larger fight for equality.

The message has three central tenets; celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality, all while questioning how we as individuals can help create a gender equal world.

Leading from the front

The telecoms & tech sector is one area of our society that is fighting to challenge the gender biases in a historically male-dominated field. This coupled with an aging and homogenous workforce, means that it is as important as ever to do our part and change the narrative.

As one of the leading voices in the wholesale telecoms space Capacity last year, lent its voice to this topic and launched the Global Women in Telco & Tech (GWTT) initiative. The aim of GWTT is to facilitate conversation and share successes made by our industry with the aim of encouraging wider adoption of these effective initiatives and to nurture new talent through its doors.

In its inaugural year Capacity hosted the Global Women in Telco & Tech Summit and Awards in London. The event saw 140 men and women share best practices, talk of cultural change and come together to celebrate amazing women across our industry. On 30 September the event will be back at London’s 8 Northumberland Avenue as our industry gathers in the name of gender parity.

New for this year the Global Women in Telco & Tech Summit will feature workshops, a closer working relationship with the ITW Global Leaders Forum (GLF) and a far more regional focus with the goal of examining the differences between different geographies and where the conversation is at and cultural differences we need to bring into the conversation.

Within our very own walls, Euromoney, Capacity’s parent company, has been hard at work rolling out its own projects in the area of equality. One facet of this, is the Women@Euromoney committee that seeks to empower women in the workplace, facilitate networking and interaction across the business, share information, support peers and raise awareness of gender issues.

In celebration of IWD, the group in collaboration with Aon, will welcome Mandy Hickson, one of the first female pilots to serve in a front-line Tornado GR4 squadron, to discuss how we can all be risk takers in efforts to achieve gender equality at work. While at our events, Capacity has implemented targets to get more female representation on stage.

Recognising the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB) for this industry, the GLF formed a working group at its meeting in October 2019. Formed to shine a light on key industry issues in this area - the GLF has a critical role in improving diversity, inclusion and belonging in the telecoms industry.

The working group will focus on many areas of this conversation including age, race, ability etc. but decided that the first area of focus would be driving improvements in gender diversity for not only GLF members’ organisations but also across the industry. In addition, the GLF is also preparing to publish a report at ITW 2020 entitled: Driving Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Telecoms Industry.

Though this is a short way off, we urge everyone to keep a close eye on the GLF social media channels over the coming months for updates and announcements about their work.

The telecoms piece

But we aren’t the only ones tackling this topic head on, across the industry at large, much work is being done.

According to CenturyLink’s Julia Fraser, vice president of sales for UK and Ireland, the company has a number of programmes at work in the space.

“Women Empowered, CenturyLink’s largest employee resource group with more than 2,700 members in seventeen countries, continues to grow. Membership increased by approximately 35% in the past year,” she says.

“Best-in-class employers understand that equality is not just the responsibility of women, it’s an issue for everyone. We have also redefined policies to help create gender parity. For example, we offer flexible working time options and opportunities for mobile working, to enable all employees to better balance their work and home lives.”

Verizon’s Eric Cevis and member of the GLF's DIB working group, says that his company “invests heavily in employee training, reducing the digital divide in communities that are poorly reached by services, through our Innovative Learning program and increasing awareness of STEM career opportunities among women and minorities”.

“For me, diversity and inclusion is not about counting heads but making each head count. There are many dimensions to who we all are. As individuals, we need to be able to apply our whole self and know our unique perspectives matter.”

Over at Colt, Louisa Gregory, chief of staff shared that to date, the company is made up of 29.3% women “so we are not far off our target of 30%,” she says.

Gregory shared that one of the ways her company is working towards this goal is through its graduate intake.

“Last year we had more female graduates than males, and we are also working on multiple HR programs to foster talent throughout our business to ensure we can attract and retain more women in our business, as well as making our policies fairer and more diverse,” Gregory says.

Clémentine Fournier, regional vice president of sales, Africa at BICS, says that what many companies have just started to do in the area of D&I, BICS has been developing for a long time.

“We are a team of highly motivated individuals with more than 50 different nationalities, ages, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and educational backgrounds, closely and successfully interacting together on a daily basis to master the challenges of our complex industry.”

“Inclusion allows companies to handle complexity with more efficiency as it enables employees to look at things from different angles and brings different perspectives to light,” added Katia Gonzalez, head of fraud prevention, BICS.

“Having multiple views helps businesses consider a situation as a whole, and therefore help make the most appropriate decisions in a shorter timeframe.”

Opportunities in the space

Sky has its own Get into Tech training course that is designed for women who are just starting out, changing or returning to their careers, and who may not have otherwise considered technology jobs.

“The programme helps build the skills needed to enter the industry and many go on to work within our technology teams, says Elaine Bucknor, group director of security, strategy & planning and group security information officer at Sky.

In addition, she mentioned a Women in Technology Scholarship programme the company set up that offers five women funding of £25,000 to help accelerate their technology business idea.

“The programme is close to my heart as I’ve noticed throughout my career a real lack of positive and successful female role models to look up to,” Bucknor says.

Telesoft Technologies, a provider of cyber security and government infrastructure solutions, is taking a slightly different approach and creating an apprenticeship scheme.

“We understand it’s a long-term investment, cybersecurity training and study takes years, but and it’s one we’re happy to make, says Dr Alison Vincent, Telesoft’s non-executive director.

“Within this, we’re driven by decreasing the gender gap in our own company and the young women doing our apprenticeships are thriving in their roles.”

Interesting, technology vendor Altran is focusing on much of the cultural aspects of people and change.

“Our programs are aimed to increase sensitivity to the needs of pregnant employees and increase their well-being in the workplace,” explains Corinne Jouanny, group VP of European technology & innovation operations, Altran.

“We have introduced initiatives to help new mothers return to their career after a maternity break, and transition smoothly into their work. We have created a support system for high-performing women employees to be mentored by leaders.”

Sharing her own words of wisdom on the subject, Angela Logothetis, CTO of open networks, Amdocs, says that the key for any young person navigating this industry is tenacity and a natural curiosity – in other words network and ask questions.

“One piece of advice I always give to both my female and male peers who are aspiring to be leaders, is to network as much as possible and build relationships with successful people,” she explains.

“Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’ve risen to the position they’re in, and how they’ve overcome challenges in their career.”

Earlier this month Vodafone launched its #ChangeTheFace initiative calling on technology leaders to join and make a pledge to increase diversity and equality in the sector.

By signing up at www.change-the-face.com, businesses can make their own pledge to address inequalities and eradicate bias and discrimination in the sector. Nokia and Ericsson are the first to join Vodafone in making their pledges.

“By reducing stereotypes and encouraging everyone to think about the different faces of our organisations, we can really start to make progress,” said Nick Jeffery, CEO at Vodafone.

“I’m proud to say that we now have a 50:50 gender-balanced UK board and will continue to prioritise inclusivity across every part of the business.”

The tech conversation

Outside of the telecoms space Mastercard has its Girls4Tech education program that aims to drive the interest of young girls in STEM. Ultimately, the program aims to help bridge the skill gap in the technology industry.

The training is based on three career stations – cryptology, digital convergence and algorithms. At each station, participants get a chance to explore and experience the technologies that underlie the foundations of modern-day digital systems, all using Mastercard technology as examples.

There is also Women in AI, a set of profiles that highlight the work being done by women who are adopting and promoting AI technologies within their companies.

“With our initiative, we want to highlight the far-reaching and innovative work, as well as the brilliant minds, of some amazing women around the world,” says Marie Angselius-Schönbeck, head of corporate communications at IPsoft and founder of the Women in AI initiative.

Additionally, there is Optimizely's I/ Own It program. Founded by Jenny Lin, a former Optimizely engineering manager, it seeks to help more women break into tech through the development of entry-level skills via a software engineering bootcamp and offers professional experience through a three-month internship.

Conversely, American consumer electronics manufacturer Belkin International boasts a leadership that sits on the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) D&I board and actively participates in applying best practices within the organisation.

“At Belkin the concept of women supporting women is very real – we have a strong network of influential women executives that lift each other up – and a CEO that could not be prouder of the work we do every day,” says Melody Saffery, Belkin’s senior director of product development.

And on general note a word of advice for those of us suffering from imposter syndrome, Shawna Wolverton, senior vice president of product at Zendesk says:

“When it comes to work, just say yes. Too often I found myself qualifying myself out of opportunities because I wasn't sure I had all the skills or experience necessary to do it well. As I spent more time in the workplace, I realized no one really has mastery of work. We're all learning.”

However you choose to celebrate this year’s IWD, let’s not overlook the incredible work already being done to help get us closer to our goal. Now more than ever, businesses are waking up to the business benefits and social impact this work holds. Lest we forget; An equal world is an enabled world.

#IWD2020 #EachforEqual