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Women in Tech: What’s holding equality back?

8th March 2023

In 2022, the Global Gender Gap Report indicated it will take women 132 years to reach full parity with men. While a reduction of 4 years in 12 months shows the gap is narrowing, it is not happening nearly fast enough. So, what’s holding equality back?

Tanya Thorne Giganet Chief Marketing Officer on embracing equity.

“Embracing equity isn’t just a theme for International Women’s Day, it’s the key to achieving equality and supporting future women in tech.”

This week, Tanya Thorne, Chief Marketing Officer at Giganet, explains why embracing equity isn’t just a theme for International Women’s Day, it’s the key to achieving equality and supporting future women in tech.

What are your experiences of gender equity in the tech / telecoms sector?

The lack of diversity in the tech industry is unfortunately nothing new. It is no secret that women are persistently underrepresented, and it has posed a significant challenge for tech companies for decades. Given half of the world’s population is female, it stands to reason that businesses would benefit from actively recruiting women for key positions. Which is why it makes perfect sense for Giganet to lead with that change.

With the pandemic serving to increase revenue, create new jobs, revolutionise products and innovate services, technology and telco as industries have never had it so good. So, why do I continue to ask myself, where are all the women?

I have noted that diverse perspectives are increasingly being represented on leadership teams, with more women taking a seat at the table. However, companies are under a lot of pressure to deliver results. Hiring practises in many organisations may still err towards choosing proven experience over potential in leadership roles.

It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point in my career, and there have been setbacks and challenges aplenty along the way. My personal experience has varied hugely from company to company with the very best having a truly diverse workforce, to one that was shockingly the reverse.

What should companies be doing to embrace equity?

One thing we must do is acknowledge the bias exists. Discrimination and bias don’t belong anywhere, so it certainly shouldn’t be found in the workplace. Whether that’s based on gender, ethnicity, or any other factor. Respect, equal pay, a healthy work-life balance, increased opportunities for women in management roles, and diversity should serve as the compass by which we navigate our decisions.

What do people get wrong when trying to create inclusive workplaces for women?

The first thing any company needs to do is ask itself whether they are participating in diversity and inclusion initiatives with a pure strategic intent, or tactically and in order to comply with corporate governance and self-regulation. Simply ticking boxes will not work and it will be felt.

Businesses can concentrate on representation, reputation management, and adhering to the appropriate metrics, but the only way to prevent reproducing the same gender ratios that exist in the technology industry today, is to embrace a shift in culture towards innovation and growth and prioritise diversity and inclusion. Put it at the very heart of the company where everyone has a part to play. By bringing attention to these efforts, it will pave the way for an age when every employee, at every company knows, without having to be told, that diversity is valued and expected.

In your opinion, what are the most important factors in creating a workplace that allows women to thrive?

Recruitment initiatives are critical, but to truly close the gender gap, businesses also need to retain female talent. To ensure that women are present to shape future technologies and serve as role models to those just starting out, talent retention is an essential piece of the puzzle. Businesses must be tightly weaving this into their approach to embracing equity. For example, the establishment of support networks for women who are either returning to work or looking to advance their careers.

Leaders have the responsibility of establishing an atmosphere in which all team members are comfortable speaking up, being heard, and experiencing a sense of belonging. We need to be open to the input of employees whose experience and areas of expertise are different from our own, cultivating the sense of belonging in a community of supportive peers. Promoting the achievements of women in technology, mentoring programmes, and highlighting visible influential role models are crucial. And encouraging meaningful connections between employer and employee increases the likelihood of more women taking up positions in the tech industry – and staying.

I also believe that adaptability in the workplace is an important factor. Leaders should consider how to clear the decks for their employees to succeed, rather than focusing on how many hours an employee spends in an office. Ultimately, what is important to me is how competent my team is, and how effectively we support the overall business strategy. But this comes by looking each individual and taking a genuine interest in them. My guiding principles when hiring are seeking out passion and a will to win. Skills can be taught but the drive to succeed is something money can’t buy. Women tend to have this in spades, but equity is key. I work to identify strengths and understand personal circumstances so I can offer suitable opportunities to everyone. So that they can be a part of the solution, meeting team goals, hitting deadlines and feeling like they have value. It makes no difference to me whether my team completes work in 5 hours or 8.5 hours, whether they need to take breaks to address work-life, whether they are in the office or halfway around the world. Where someone works is less important than how balanced they are, happy they are, fulfilled they are. Get this right, and you will have a team in which every individual contributes naturally to success.

Have you seen a shift in recent years in terms of more women showing interest in the sector? If so, why do you think that is?

That’s difficult to say. What I do see is that change will come from grassroots. The role that education and the government plays in this shift is extremely important. Numerous variables can influence positive change: working from home, mentoring, diversity and inclusion training, new apprenticeship and entry schemes, a rise in constructive messaging around the industry and the opportunities herein, being just a few.

Some women may not be able to recognise the opportunities that are available in the digital world because they are misinformed about technology. ‘It’s male dominated’ and therefore ‘out of scope’, that ‘you need to be a coder or an engineer’, that the industry is ‘beyond grasp’.

A concerted effort in getting young women entering fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will naturally increase the number of women who will potentially develop careers these fields. Look at me, not one bit of coding experience in sight, and yet here I am!

Why is it important to have women in leading roles?

Greater employee diversity has been linked to improved financial performance across industries, regions, and businesses. Those with a diverse workforce are reported to outperform their non-diverse competitors in every industry, and the telecoms sector is no exception. Our time is running out. The industry may have been successful to this point despite a lack of diversity, but eventually we will be at a disadvantage because of it. As I look at my street, at my county, and the UK, I see diversity flourishing on so many levels. However, inside the office, unless we truly diversify and try to reflect the demographics of our user base, we run the risk of not only losing touch with what customers want, but we will struggle to draw the best talent to the company.

Women provide businesses with a potent force of insight and innovation, which will become an increasingly necessary component to meet the demands of a varied customer base. Conversations, decisions, and outcomes are richer, more insightful, and most effective with women at the table. It is therefore critical to get more women in leadership roles. Put simply, more diverse teams will be more productive and successful, and who doesn’t want to win?

Any tips for succeeding in a male-dominated environment?

Over the years, I have learned some useful strategies for succeeding at work even when the gender ratio is stacked against you. Here are just a few:

  • If a man has a right, then so do you. You should consider yourself a player of equal skill. Do not think less of yourself or view yourself as the lesser sex. Believe, and champion yourself.
  • Seize every chance you get, and if one doesn’t present itself, create it.
  • Look for a mentor; someone you respect and look up to. Who has experience in both the working world and in life, and who is able to see where you are headed and offer advice on how to get there.
  • Exhibit confidence and self-assurance – tackle tough conversations head on, and remain calm, and gathered.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up, and always view criticism as an opportunity to improve.
  • Vocalise your achievements. I’m not talking about a constant brag, but if you have achieved something great, laud it. Put yourself forward to manage projects or settle issues, go out of your way to offer your talents to your manager even if they are ‘outside the remits’ of your role. You know what they say, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’.
  • Just take that chance – send in that application. Know that you can be a businesswoman, a sister, a friend, a mother, and a daughter. When you know how to balance work and life, you can be them all.

How would you like to see the telecoms sector challenge the bias to promote equity?

Post-pandemic, never in the history of business has there been such a golden opportunity for companies to establish a ‘new normal’ in the workplace.

But developing strategies is one thing – putting them into action is another. There is certainly a greater understanding of what needs to be done, as well as a palpable desire to change. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions won’t happen by itself and needs to be prioritised. One strategy is for top management to make gender parity a guiding principle for all future endeavours.

Rather than merely endorsing diversity initiatives and hoping that they will be successful, we must act. Bringing attention to these initiatives helps move the needle towards a future where all employees will have an innate understanding that they work for a company that values and seeks to achieve diversity.

I believe action starts at the very top, with the CEO assembling a diverse Executive team. We must be prepared to take chances on individuals who, on paper, may not meet all the criteria, and then mentor and instil confidence in them so that they can grow and reach their full potential. Quite literally embracing equity. Yes, we may still have to work harder, but it is absolutely within our power to be daring, and we must dare to be different. And even though we cannot eliminate the gender gap overnight, we can keep up the momentum that we’ve built by working together to make positive change.

Where to next?

If you’re keen on making career steps into telecoms, or in any discipline of our business, you’re in luck! We have lots of roles available and would love to hear from you.

Visit the Giganet careers page to learn more about our workplace culture and employee benefits system. You’ll also be able to view all our latest job vacancies and register your CV for upcoming roles.

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