Gender diverse companies are 45% more likely to improve market share, achieve 53% higher returns on equity, and are 70% more likely to report successfully capturing new markets, yet in the telecommunications industry gender parity remains painfully far. In a recent report, A.T. Kearney considers the state of gender balance within the telecommunications industry and ways to bring the scales in balance.
Diversity is good for business. Companies that have a diverse workforce are considerably better at innovation and outperform their competition. This has been shown across a number of studies, including a report by BCG, highlighting that gender diverse companies achieve 53% higher returns on equity. While the empirical, quantitative and qualitative benefits of having diverse workforces have been show conclusively, and with leaders from around the world at The APEC CEO Summit and the G20 Summit in 2014 recognising the pivotal role of women in development and prosperity, the paradox remains why diversity isn’t everywhere.
A.T. Kearney recently released the results of a study highlighting that diversity is far from reached in the telecommunications industry, especially in management and upper management positions. The study, which covered 54 companies across the globe, with on average 12,900 employees, involves expert interviews, case studies and surveys and aims to provide a baseline, share best practices, and support the industry in making positive progress towards bridging the gender gap.
The research shows that female participation in the telecommunication industry varies wildly – between 10% and 52% – and that women account for less than 40% of the workforce in three-quarters of telecommunications companies surveyed. In the senior ranks, participation rates drop off further. In Europe 20% of senior managers in telecommunications sector are female, while entry level acquisition is 43%. In America 31% will make it into a senior position, with 40% of entrants female. The Middle East and Africa have particularly high barriers in place to female leadership, at 13% and 9% respectively.
Telecommunications – since the end of the switchboard – is often perceived as a male career path, with the qualifications required to enter into a career within the industry often seen as more ‘male’ qualifications. One thing to change is this perception.
In North American and Europe, senior management is predominantly drawn from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) and finance/business degrees degree. With the share of women with science and engineering degrees only 38% (North America) and 25% (Europe), challenging this perception is one way in which the consultancy believes a gender balance may be restored.
Other methods include planning talent management and promotion initiatives, such as grooming high-talent women early toward senior management; reducing unconscious biases by various methods; investing in tailored training and mentoring as it is widely recognised that women approach personal development, leadership, and self-promotion differently than men; back-to-work programmes, where people out of work for family reasons are appropriated with tailored training, is also seen as a key measure to improve gender diversity; and looking beyond the industry: companies can expedite gender diversity by recruiting outside the company or even the industry.
Changing the business culture
According to the consulting firm, important features to be adopted within the company culture include a long term diversity vision and strategy, visible and vocal leadership, aspirational annual targets, and a relentless commitment to closely monitor the impact of individual initiatives.
The authors conclude: “The industry needs to be more systematic and relentless in sharing and adopting best practices with a full commitment to a diverse workforce while respecting local cultural norms and legal obligations.”