diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profiles

Driving diversity in tech communications – why the onus isn’t just on women

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesBy Vicky Sleight, VP of Diversity & Inclusion, Human Factor, TM Forum

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is finally recognised as indispensable for business success. In the two decades of working in the tech communications industry, I have witnessed the understanding of this function evolve from a nice-to-understand to a must-have. 

When I first landed in tech comms, it was unusual to find a senior female executive leading meetings in boardrooms or on conference platforms. The lack of a diverse and inclusive culture was reflective of a historical mindset that tech comms was a male and engineering-based industry.

Today, there are (just) six women CEOs leading 31 companies within the top global telco space. Professionals across the industry welcome this progress, but the journey the tech comms industry is on, still has a way to go.

Start with education

I feel a responsibility to teach younger generations, especially women, what it’s like to work in tech comms. It’s not an intimidating male-heavy space but rather an innovative industry that’s using technology to change the way we interact daily. If you’re passionate about collaboration, collective problem solving and driving change, then I truly believe tech comms is the industry for you.

We need women from different educational, professional and personal backgrounds to diversify the thinking in tech comms at one of the most exciting times for the industry. Working with schools and universities to showcase the potential of tech communications and the range of opportunities available will get us closer to achieving the diversity the industry craves.

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Networks of allies

While extremely rewarding, working in the tech comms industry can still sometimes be challenging for women. However, there are ways we can help level the playing field while we wait for individual corporate cultures to catch up with the prevailing desire for demonstrable D&I in wider society.

First, build a strong network of supporters. This isn’t just about talking to other women, but men too. The fight for diversity has never been just about women supporting women; it’s about involving our allies as well. The more diverse your network, the more different abilities and skill sets are available. Everyone will make mistakes during their career, but you can learn a lot from collaboration with other people with other viewpoints.

The same philosophy extends to allowing others to access your skillsets and advice, and mentoring is one way you can give back. Be a mentor and a mentee, and make sure you champion someone different to you. You don’t want to create a carbon copy of who you are or who your mentor is; you want someone different to learn your skills and benefit from your experience. In this way, we help deepen diversity even further.

The journey towards true equity is still very much a work in progress. However, no business or individual should go at it alone. It’s a collaborative effort that needs buy-in at all levels to succeed. Once the collective drive and strategic understanding are set in stone, we can start to action real change and develop a healthy environment that attracts and retains the right talent to capitalise on the tremendous growth the industry is seeing and create the future workplace.

About the author

Vicky SleightA cultural diversity and inclusion executive with 20 years’ experience in the global tech communication’s industry, Vicky Sleight is leading, influencing, and driving change at international level in culture change, equality, diversity and inclusion.  She has a successful track record of fostering innovative approaches to D&I and cultural change through collaboration with key stakeholders in industry, government, NGO’s and academia. 

At TM Forum, as VP Human Factor and Diversity and Inclusion, Vicky has built and is leading the global industry collaboration and Executive Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion along with the Digital Organisation Transformation & Culture program – the mission to accelerate digital transformation and succeed in the digital economy through ensuring tech communications is the most diverse industry in the world.