Connecting Women with Telecoms

Article by Nicole Curran, Service Delivery Technician, UK Connect

Telecoms, TelecommunicationsTelecoms is a dynamic, ever-evolving sector, where technology is driving change, improving systems and processes on a daily basis. It’s never been easier to communicate with one another.

However there’s one conversation which is still faltering within the sector, surrounding gender diversity and the distinct lack of female telecoms engineers.

It’s a situation which needs to change. Crucially we need to persuade women entering the world of work that a career in telecoms engineering is a rewarding, interesting and respected one. As I look to my own experience in industry, I’ve become increasingly aware that, if we’re going to change the situation we need to start engaging with women from an early age.

Like most 18 year olds, fresh out of school, I was a little unsure of what career I wanted to pursue and, like most, I stumbled upon the telecoms industry by accident. Having always been hands-on and practical, with a talent for fixing things, the idea of becoming a telecoms engineer appealed.

I took to the job quickly, each day was different and presented new technical challenges to tackle. It was, and still is, a deeply satisfying profession, and enables you to see the positive outcomes for your clients first hand.

However, when I joined the industry, working for Virgin Media, back in 2012 I was something of an exception, not the norm. Women were woefully underrepresented on the frontline, within the region of Yorkshire with 100+ engineers I was one of a handful of female engineers

Although this situation has started to change, we are still a long way off any kind of parity in the workforce, which still remains heavily male dominated. I think that some of this is down to institutional problems which persist, a bit like blue for boys, pink for girls. I remember at school, Engineering was not even a consideration by the career officer as a potential path.

The narrative is wrong, and I’ve often felt the implication is that such jobs are not suitable territory for women. I’ve never understood why this is the case, all this does is limit the potential talent pool available to these industries.

Old school attitudes also present a problem, and put off many women from pursuing engineering as a long term career.

I remember being frequently patronised early on, with many former male colleagues not expecting me to know what I was doing. Before joining UK Connect which, by the way, has an excellent diversity programme, I’d always been looked on as an apprentice/trainee, despite being more experienced than many of the men on my team. I put this misconception down, to being young and female. It’s sad such attitudes still prevail and I think it’s a definite hurdle, not just getting more women into engineering, but other male dominated professions too.

The good news is that we have the power to change this, making telecoms a more attractive proposition to female school leavers, university graduates and even those looking to change careers or returning to work.

For a start, those women currently in the profession need to be encouraged to shout louder about their success and use opportunities, such as this, to champion the industry as a highly-desirable career choice.

Schools can play an integral part in breaking down barriers, particularly when it comes to how they advertise apprenticeships. They need to be more proactive, equally promoting these to all genders alike. We desperately need to get over this aforementioned stereotype, women can make great engineers as much as men can be brilliant nurses.

Then there’s the industry itself. I know that the big three: Sky, BT and Virgin Media have diversity and inclusion programmes in place to help get more women into the industry and these have been relatively successful. However, they are not promoted nearly enough in the public forum. These companies should be shouting about these initiatives from the rooftops.

Hats off to my former employer (Virgin Media), which has now got up to 3-4 females per team, a very big success. But there’s still much more to be done.

Finally, I think more women need to have confidence in their own ability and follow their ambitions. Don’t be afraid to do what you love, even if it makes you the odd one out, you will find yourself often being the only woman in your class/team/company but don’t be deterred, use that to make yourself stand out and you’ll be successful in your field. Resilience and determination is key.

There’s a huge demand for women in engineering and so much opportunity for us to create equality and abolish gender roles for good.


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