Why gender diversity is essential for the telco industry
Women are still under-represented across many industries in the UK, with the telco industry facing a particularly steep gender disparity. When looking at the leading telecom companies globally, in only one are more than 40% of the directors female, while four had none at all.
The data proves that change needs to happen – women need to feel included and supported in any industry they aspire to enter. To drive tangible change, NTT DATA and Women in Cable Telecommunications UK (WICT UK) held an event to discuss gender diversity and talent retention within the Telecommuications, Media and Technology (TMT) industry. The event had panellists from a range of top companies, including Sky, Liberty Global, and ENP Media.
We were delighted to host this event and hear first-hand how companies can tackle some of the most pressing issues for women in the telco industry. The panellists discussed a host of different topics, including the key challenges facing women in the TMT sector, the impact of the pandemic and the opportunities they see going forward for empowering women in the industry.
Challenges women face in the TMT sector
The panel began by addressing the current state of play for the industry and the challenges facing women. NTT DATA’s latest survey found a concerning trend of dissatisfaction amongst female employees in technology: 42% of women have considered leaving the tech industry to progress their careers in another sector. Obstacles in career progression is a common challenge that women face across tech. The panellists were clear-eyed on this issue at the event, discussing the various ways that organisations can hire and retain female talent. In particular, the need for good coaching and mentorship was stressed as the most effective solution across the panellists.
The panellists also stressed the importance of building programmes with equity and not just equality. Businesses need to recognise that simply treating everyone equally may not be enough. Extra steps may need to be taken to ensure fair treatment for all and to address the inequalities that limit progress for under-represented groups. Think of it this way: “if equality is the end goal, equity is the means to get there.”
Examples of equitable initiatives would be NTT DATA’s Tech Academy recruitment programme, the 30% Club or Black Girls CODE. These initiatives specifically focus on offering opportunities to underrepresented women, regardless of their socio-economic background, race or job position.
Organisations are becoming more aware of their responsibility towards equity, particularly in the hiring process. The importance of waiting for a diverse pool of candidates before making an immediate job offer is becoming more recognised by business leaders. Only recently NTT DATA implemented the route2work scheme to open up opportunities for a career in technology for female candidates. In a similar vein, Mandy Clark spoke on the panel about ENP Media’s approach to invest in candidates from diverse backgrounds, providing fresh perspectives and diversity of thought in the media – an industry reliant for too long on a small pool of similar candidates.
Impact of the pandemic
We were particularly struck by the nuanced discussion on the panel about the impact of the pandemic. As opposed to the one-dimensional discussion of the pandemic in the media, what emerged at the event was a varied picture of women’s experience in TMT during this unprecedented time.
The economic crisis referred to as the ‘she-cession’ movement has undoubtedly resulted in many talented and prospective women being side-lined. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development research has shown that early measures to delay the spread of the virus initially hit jobs predominantly held by women. With women carrying out two-thirds more of childcare duties than men during lockdown, the pandemic’s disruption has led to more working mothers faced with the choice of either reducing their hours or leaving their jobs entirely.
This situation is a perfect example of why businesses must provide flexible working hours and support networks for both mothers and fathers. The panel’s conversation on childcare stressed the need for companies to provide suitable paternity leave and support mechanisms for all parents, not just women.
Yet, as the panel highlighted, not all women have faced intense disruption through the pandemic. For some women, the pandemic has been an opportunity to change their lives. Many women have felt empowered by the chance to rethink what they want from their jobs and have pursued happiness in making what was once a dream a reality.
Opportunities for women going forward
The event was an excellent opportunity to understand some of the ongoing and new challenges facing women in the telco sector. The panel’s discussions also opened the door to conversations on how businesses can build gender diversity in telecommunications. As mentioned previously, diversity initiatives play a tremendous role in providing new opportunities for talented female candidates to find roles in the telco sector.
Whilst these recruitment initiatives are essential, for the gender gap to truly narrow businesses must work towards retaining female talent too.
Retention of female talent and subsequent support networks for women returning to work or seeking career progression is undoubtedly the next step. The telco sector is already suffering from a shortage of female talent. The added impact of the she-cession should be a wake-up call for business leaders to do more, or risk depriving itself of a raft of talented individuals who will help drive growth in the post-pandemic world, and beyond.
We want to express ourgratitude to everyone at NTT DATA and WICT involved in organising such an important event. At NTT DATA UK we are proud to be a Gold Sponsor of WICT and look forward to continuing to work closely with them to build a pipeline of female leaders to help transform the telco industry.
While we cannot solve gender disparity overnight, we can collectively keep up the momentum of striving for change. As panellist Smriti Garga from Sky noted, diversity must be at the forefront of the conversation for businesses to accomplish meaningful change.