International Women’s Day 2021
It’s great to speak to you, can you tell us more about how you came to be working in telecoms and what were some of your early experiences as a female in a male dominated world?
I had a slightly unusual career path; I had studied Physics and Chemistry at University with the intention of becoming a high school teacher. However, after three years teaching, I realised it didn’t have the opportunities I needed, so switched careers. Because I have a master’s degree in Physics, I was able to take my first role in the industry as an R&D engineer.
At the time there was a huge amount of momentum in the telecoms industry which generated a lot of opportunities and I have been very lucky to not have been too disadvantaged by the gender imbalance in the industry. There were many occasions where I worked with colleagues and leaders that put politely, ‘weren’t sure how to deal with a woman’ but I was always fortunate to be able to manage these situations and at times use it to my advantage.
When I started there were very few women in the industry so in a sea of dark suits, I stood out – people remembered who I was, and I used this as a positive. Of course, there are glass ceilings, numerous barriers that women have faced and there is still room for the industry to grow to create more opportunities for women. My approach was always if you deal with it in a positive and constructive way it opens doors and I think that is still true for women in the industry today.
As a CEO do you empower women in your organisation?
For me the goal is equality, and so it is important to empower all employees, men and women. But part of that empowerment, means offering equal access to opportunities. For some women, being able access those opportunities and bring the value they have to an organisation, requires flexibility from a company. Being able to accommodate talented women with remote working or part time roles is part of offering real equal opportunities. It’s also pushing women to have the self-confidence to apply for roles that they are fully capable of, that extra encouragement is a necessary part of path to equality, and it should be something that all leaders, male and female, strive for.
How have things changed more recently for women in the industry?
One of very few silver linings from the pandemic is that for many more ‘traditional’ industries it has accelerated perspectives on flexible working. As the world has been forced to adopt a new working style and adapt to changes in childcare demands, increased working from home and changes in working patterns, industries have had to learn the hard way that flexible working is a viable option. To enable equal opportunities, we have to learn to deal with family life and so flexibility has to become the norm. From the big step the pandemic has forced us to take, I expect that it will open the doors to many women to embrace leadership roles as it has proven that this can be done within a flexible framework.
As you reflect on your career as a woman in telecoms, do you have any thoughts or advice for women embarking on roles in the industry?
I have been very fortunate throughout my career to work with and know many women who have shown what females can achieve with perseverance and dedication. For me being a woman is something that I am, it is something I cannot change and do not want to change – I like being a woman. It is something to be embraced and made the best of. We as an industry are moving in the right direction to ensure women are able to take full advantage of all opportunities that such an interesting and exciting sector is offering, and I would encourage them to have the self-belief to make the most of them.