Women In Comms

Women in Tech Coming Into Focus

It's a good time to be a woman in technology, but also a challenging time.

Reading the headlines, seeing the statistics and hearing about the lawsuits and discrimination can make anyone feel pretty dismal about being a women in the technology industry, but the good news is there is progress being made -- and, at the least, the industry as a whole has stopped pretending gender imbalance is not a problem and started talking about what can be done.

This month, which also happens to be Women's History Month, has seen a number of telecom service providers rising to the challenge of making redressing the gender balance in our industry a priority. Chief among them is Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), which is instituting a mandatory minimum maternity leave policy that is one of the most progressive I've seen. The carrier said that across its 30 global operating companies, women will get 16 weeks paid maternity leave, as well as full pay for a 30-hour work week for the first six months after they return to work.

And, wouldn't you know, doing so might even save them money. A KPMG International study they commissioned indicated that global businesses could save around $19 billion annually by offering 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, because the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace women who don't come back can be upwards of $47 billion per year. Giving them four months off at a cost of around $28 billion per year still saves a company money and makes it more likely women return to the workforce.

Given that a Center for Talent Innovation study found that women in science, engineering and technology are 45% more likely than men to leave the industry within the year, incentivizing them to come back should be an important priority for service providers.

Read more about women in the technology industry on our business and employment content channel here on Light Reading.

Vodafone is just one example. This month alone, we've also seen High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) appoint a woman, co-founder Cher Wang, as CEO to replace Peter Chou; women at SXSW dominated headlines (including one most excellent call out during a panel on diversity with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt), and Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao is -- for better or worse -- bringing visibility to the issue with a lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield, for gender discrimination.

There is still so much work to be done, which is a theme that has come up at Light Reading's three recent Women in Telecom (now Women in Tech) breakfast events.(See Women in Telecom: Collaboration Critical to New IP, Pics: Women in Telecom Take London, New Skills Needed as Telecom, IT Collide, Light Reading's Women in Telecom Recap, Pics: LR's Women in Telecom Breakfast and The New IP Live!)

Women bring unique skill sets to the table that mesh well with how technology is changing. They think differently, and as Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) CEO Maggie Wilderotter best put it in a press release highlighting her company's efforts to promote women, "Diversity brings out the best in decision-making."

More women need to be in tech, stay in tech and occupy senior level positions, especially those with a profit-and-loss line associated with them.

Even with all the negativity, it's still a good thing women's issues are getting more visibility -- something we'd like to do more of on the digital pages of Light Reading as well. The atmosphere is changing in the tech industry. Women aren't keeping quiet anymore, and it's a trend that should go on long past Women's History Month.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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sineira 3/25/2015 | 4:57:13 PM
Re: Women in Tech mendyk, I'm sure you wouldn't give Europe any credit. I would be interested in knowing who you think the leader is in this field ...
sarahthomas1011 3/25/2015 | 12:29:39 PM
Re: Women in Tech That's great, Axel. Thank you for sharing! I will take a look today and folllow up with you.
axelfreyberg 3/24/2015 | 7:15:17 PM
Re: Women in Tech Sarah - it is great that you picked the topic up which is also close to us. Together with the GSMA, we, A.T. Kearney, have just published a report on "Connected Women". The report provides a snapshot of the current state of gender diversity in the industry based on a survey and interviews with industry leaders. It aims to provide a baseline for workforce evolution, share best practices and support the industry in shaping workplaces that take full advantage of gender diversity. Maternity/paternity leave is only one of many measures -

Please find the report here: http://www.atkearney.com/communications-media-technology/ideas-insights/connected-women-2015
kq4ym 3/24/2015 | 4:16:55 PM
Re: Women in Tech Vodaphone's efforts in maternity leave sound like it should pay off with improved morale and less training costs in the long run. It will be interesting to see if others follow their lead or even lose talent to Vodaphone.
mendyk 3/24/2015 | 12:57:08 PM
Re: Women in Tech I wouldn't give "Europe" too much credit for advanced thinking on the social contract. Some countries are clearly better at it than others. But every system in essence is based on the work-for-sustenance model. An optimist's view is that this will change over the next hundred years, as automation and thinking machines move through their logical evolutions.
pcharles09 3/24/2015 | 12:49:22 AM
Re: Women in Tech @Mitch W,

It might also be a little bit that organizations don't want emloyees feeling irreplacable too.
Mitch Wagner 3/23/2015 | 11:23:23 PM
Re: Women in Tech smkinoshita:

"Even with a cold, calculating financial eye one realizes that replacing good people is a lot more expensive than retaining them."

For companies that are interested in long-term growth and viability that is the case. But many companies are only interested in short-term results. 
sineira 3/23/2015 | 9:23:10 PM
Re: Women in Tech It's always good to see how this is done in other places.


sineira 3/23/2015 | 9:18:15 PM
Re: Women in Tech Our culture, as in US culture, yes.

Not so in Europe and elsewhere. It works fine there and could work here as well.
sarahthomas1011 3/23/2015 | 1:49:23 PM
Re: Women in Tech That's not a function of gender though, just the nature of being employees-at-will. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EwViQxSJJQ
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