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Tech sector must step up efforts to include women

LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 EUROPE, BRUSSELS: Tech companies must take the initiative in terms of hiring more women while at the same time stepping up efforts to raise awareness about the sector among young girls.

Panellists in the Educate to Innovate: Empowering women in ICT session called for a fuller, genuine, commitment to programmes designed to bring more women into the technology industry. Catherine Ladousse, executive director of communication for EMEA at Lenovo (pictured, second from left), said such moves should begin at CEO level and cover mentoring, networking and coaching opportunities.

Those programmes should be coupled with targets and KPIs relating to women in technology which are frequently measured, she said. Doing so ensures initiatives actually makes a difference, rather than just being about ticking off boxes in corporate social responsibility plans.

There is also a strong financial incentive for companies to bridge the gender gap. Moderator Sylwia Kechiche, lead analyst for M2M at GSMA Intelligence (pictured, far right), said McKinsey Global Institute research showed advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

What’s more, companies with 30 per cent of women in leadership roles expect a net margin 6 per cent higher than in businesses with a lower percentage, according to Peterson Institute for International Economics figures.

Christopher Clark (pictured, second from right), head of membership and partner relations at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said the process needs to start early on, getting girls interested in the tech sector at a young age.

This is because, even when the management of a company is ready to hire more women, it is often the case there aren’t many who are suitably qualified.

ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for telecoms and ICT. Clark said of its 191 member states, 160 are working on a programme to get girls interested in tech careers. So far, some 300,000 have participated in the programme, a small number in Clark’s opinion but a good start.

Clark also touched upon the responsiblity of men in the workplace as subordinates, peers and managers who need to work against the stereotypes “baked into our brains” from the start and create an environment which supports women.

Echoing these sentiments, Zeina Nazer, secretary general at ITS Arab, an NGO in the intelligent transport systems sector (pictured, left) said women are often left out of decision-making in organisations when important discussions are held outside of formal working hours, at post-work drinks or a golfing session, perhaps.

This, coupled with constraints around family life, can put women at a disadvantage, but Nazer believes these issues can be worked around with the cooperation of the workplace.

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