Last week, I had the privilege of taking part in International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Girls in ICT Day – Pacific as the moderator of an inspiring panel called “Talking Tech with Members of PTC”. Two young female leaders, Shalini Lagrutta, CEO of DXN Limited and Abby Veverka, digital marketing manager at Southern Cross Cable Network, joined me for this fun discussion. Several important topics were addressed, and I hope we succeeded in inspiring young girls and women in the Pacific to consider a career in our great industry. Here are some of my views and key takeaways from our tech chat.
I believe it is more important than ever for young people, and young women more particularly, to have the opportunity to play their part in building the ICT industry of the future. What would a future look like without the creativity, intelligence, and distinct input from 50% of humankind?
Recognizing the importance and wanting more young women to join our great industry is only the beginning of the journey. The next, and probably the biggest hurdle, is to actually make this happen.
In my view, there is no simple solution to this challenge, but rather the industry as a whole needs to address this from multiple angles.
- Educate: First, it starts with education. If young girls don’t even know our industry exists and how great it is, how can they want to come and play a part in it? Currently, most young girls are social media and gaming obsessed. How many of them actually comprehend what makes this amazing technology possible and the importance it plays in our society as a whole? Our first task is to educate the young generation about how telecom works, and this should become part of the curriculum in schools around the world.
- Inspire: The second step in this plan of action is to inspire girls and young women to consider science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as a topic of study, with the hope of a tech-oriented career. Many young girls are hesitant to contemplate such a career path. Either because they were not taught that this was an option, or they have the misconception that it is mostly a male-orientated industry. It is crucial for women who have taken this career path to become role models so that young girls come to the realization that this field may be an opportunity for them.
- Rebrand: Once they have completed their STEM studies, the next challenge is to entice the young generation to come and work in our great industry. They must feel like they belong. I believe the current industry brand personality and how we communicate does not resonate with the young generation. Gen Z is all about making a difference and belonging. For them to feel that our industry gives them the opportunity to contribute, it must better reflect today’s reality. When I joined the industry 30 years ago, it was the coolest place to work and it can become cool again!
- Provide opportunities: Of course, the above steps would be useless unless we created opportunities for young women from all backgrounds (not only STEM) to join our industry. This starts by creating apprentice and internship programs all the way to ensuring the hiring process is as fair as possible. We must continue to ensure young women, once they have joined, have access to support and mentorship so that they can grow and play their role as positively as possible.
- Cooperate: Finally, for the above actions to have the impact that is required, it must be an industry-wide concerted effort. Only a handful of companies taking these necessary steps will make a difference but will not solve the problem.
People who know me know I like to close with a call to action. If this short article can achieve one thing, hopefully it will be to convince you to start taking action. May it be in your daily lives, at home, with friends, or at work. Do one small thing a day to encourage and inspire the young generation and young girls. If each one of us did that, our industry would be a much better place.