The GSMA held its first GSMA Connected Women conference in Europe, bringing together more than 250 telecommunications industry professionals to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women in technology today. Through a range of keynote presentations and panel discussions, the GSMA Connected Women: Enriching the Mobile Ecosystem event explored how to attract, nurture and promote more female talent within the mobile industry, a sector that has revolutionised the lives of billions of people around the world.
“Women today comprise 40 per cent of the global workforce and account for more than half of university graduates, and yet we see only three to five per cent of senior management positions in technology being held by women,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA. “This is a critical challenge that we must address immediately – as an industry, we will be at a disadvantage if we cannot attract and retain the most talented individuals, many of whom are women. The Connected Women event focuses attention on the many opportunities available to women in technology, and particularly in mobile, and how we can foster the next generation of business leaders.”
According to a Grant Thornton International business report issued earlier this year, women hold only 21 per cent of senior management positions globally across all industries and over the last 10 years, this number has remained largely unchanged. Most studies put the number of women in senior management positions in technology companies even lower, at around three per cent to five per cent. In the 2012 Fortune 500 rankings, the number of female CEOs was 18, up from 12 in 2011, but women still accounted for only four per cent of the ranking.
“One of our keynote speakers highlighted that of 1.4 million new computing jobs in the United States in 2018, more than half could go unfilled because candidates will not possess the sufficient education and qualifications,” continued Bouverot. “We must do more to prepare women for careers in information and communications technology, and this starts with encouraging young girls and college age women to pursue technical programmes of study. This will be the foundation of our industry’s future.”
The conference highlighted current challenges and best practices, focusing on issues such as how to expand women’s use of mobile technology in their daily lives; how to build specific interest in working in the mobile ecosystem amongst girls entering education and the workforce, and amongst women looking to change careers; and how to retain women in the mobile industry and ensure they can build a career to senior management levels.
Today’s conference also put a spotlight on the important issues of women living in developing markets. Through its mWomen Programme, the GSMA has identified that women do not have the same access to mobile phones as men, particularly in developing markets, resulting in a 300 million gender gap. The GSMA mWomen Programme aims to reduce this gender gap and to put mobile phones into the hands of women in emerging markets for the first time. Launched in October 2010, this is an unprecedented global public-private partnership between the worldwide mobile industry and the international development community.
The mWomen Programme is designed to catalyse the creation of life-enhancing mobile services such as healthcare, finance, education and entrepreneurship. This will be achieved through a combination of research, grants for mobile operators and NGOs, toolkits, and knowledge sharing through the mWomen online community, seminars, and the GSMA mWomen Working Group, which includes more than 30 partners from the mobile industry. Launched by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in October 2010, the GSMA mWomen Programme is funded by USAID, AusAID, the GSMA and Visa Inc.
Bouverot concluded: “The mobile industry is a dynamic and growing part of today’s global economy. We want to foster women’s interest in building successful careers in the mobile industry, including technical roles and leadership positions. It is my hope that we encourage all women, regardless of their age and background, to be comfortable and proficient in using mobile technology and services, and moreover, I hope that we inspire women to work in this exciting sector.”