GSMA Winter Celebration: Gender Diversity in the Digital Era

On January 29, GSMA Europe hosted its winter reception to honour women leaders and gender diversity in the digital era. The European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, gave a keynote speech, followed by a panel led by GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti. The event explored the ways in which stakeholders could promote and ensure gender diversity across all digital sectors.

“Women should equally lead and participate in the digital industry. In fact, the gender gap should be a thing from the past”, stated Afke Schaart, Vice President and Head of Europe, GSMA, setting the stage for a festive evening celebrating gender diversity in the tech world. As a sector which knows no borders and enables European industries across the digital economy, the mobile industry is strongly committed to collaborating with the European Commission and other stakeholders on this mission. In this context, the GSMA supports gender equality and opportunities for women and girls via its participation in the EQUALS initiative; the GSMA Connected Women and Tech4Girls programmes; Women4Tech Summit, the #BetterFuture campaign and other initiatives.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, saluted the efforts of the GSMA. The Commissioner stressed that if Europe is serious in its ambitions to become an inclusive, dynamic and diverse Europe, women should – at all times – be included. To make sure that Europe will not lose half of its growth potential, the Commissioner emphasized the need for women to become more visible. She initiated the ‘No women, no panel’ campaign, meaning she will not appear on all-men panels, and has recently launched an online exhibition to celebrate remarkable historical women in arts & sciences.

More visibility however, will not be enough to close the gender gap. In the intermediate term, the Commissioner therefore underlined the need to stimulate female entrepreneurship, as well as the need to combat the bias and prejudice which currently prevent women from entering senior management positions. Across the digital industry, however, stakeholders have recognized the importance of gender diversity. She celebrates in this respect the CEOs who signed the Commission’s Declaration in June 2018, which lays down their ‘commitment to achieving gender balance in their companies and to creating equal opportunities for their human capital.’ The Commissioner welcomed GSMA’s announcement to become a signatory to the Declaration, as the GSMA meets all the criteria regarding an inclusive company culture, recruitment process and leadership development.

To change the digital industry more fundamentally, the Commissioner emphasized the need to tackle the current shortage of women with digital skills. In the long term, more women need to be educated in these digital technical skills and encouraged to embark on a digital career. In this context, since 2013 the Commission has organized an annual EU Code week. This year from October 5 to 20, over 2,5 million participants across Europe will engage in coding activities, 49% of which are women. In addition the Commission has initiated cross-border Digital Opportunity traineeships, which will allow up to 6000 students and recent graduates to get hands on digital experience.

Across industries, stakeholders have developed initiatives to tackle the short, intermediate and long-term issues as identified by the Commissioner. GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti discussed some of these with a panel of female technology leaders. Cheryl Miller, Founder of the Digital Leadership Institute and 2018 winner of the GSMA Women4Tech Industry Leadership GLOMO award, has developed a digital apprenticeship for senior women, which allows women to build a second, digital career later in life. Krisztina Baracsi, Vice President for EU Affairs at Telenor Group, elaborated on the ways Telenor retains female talent. Besides setting concrete targets for the number of women in senior management positions, Telenor has introduced a six-month paid maternity leave across all its markets. Joyce Dogniez, Chair of EQUALS (The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age) finally, discussed the efforts of over 90 partners to improve how to encourage female leadership. Together, they have developed a capacity-building course on “Business and Leadership for Women in the Technology Sector”, which develops the leadership, knowledge and skills of women entrepreneurs and women working in the technology sector so that they can increase the competitiveness of their companies and motivate their own teams.

The Commissioner agreed, stressing that closing the gender gap is a collective responsibility, which requires a coordinated effort by all stakeholders across industries. The GSMA for its part stands behind a common purpose of connecting everyone and everything to a better future and will continue to work to encourage, inspire and support women to grow in digital industries. Only then will everyone truly mean everyone.

Learn more about Women4Tech Programme at MWC19 Barcelona:

New this year the GSMA has introduced ‘Inside Track’ where attendees will gain critical insights from a Fortune 500 expert, enabling them to hone their skills, preparing them to compete more effectively within the mobile industry. Additionally the GSMA has introduced two invitation-only activities, the Women4Tech Roundtable and Women4Tech Dinner both of which provide the chance to engage in meaningful discussions between the speakers of the summit and their guests, on ways women can progress to leadership positions and have more participation in Boards. For more information about Women4Tech at MWC19 Barcelona click here.