Chief Play Maker, Vicky Sleight, talks women in tech
Our Chief Play Maker, Vicky Sleight, featured in Večernji list, following her discussion at the GSMA WAS#8 event hosted by Infobip, which focused on changing the equation for innovation through women in tech. You can read more here…
Why do you think it is still necessary and important to emphasise the role women have in ICT business? Is it really true that their number does still not increase in the industry?
While diversity is a key concept, it’s all about diversity of thought and is therefore a business matter as much as it’s a social one. Despite the consistent efforts of many enlightened leaders in the tech sector, it has become clear that the lack of diversity in the industry is a multi-faceted challenge that will not be easily fixed. We all have a part to play in the new strategies and approaches that are needed. I have always sought out, supported and created new ways to implement programmes that not only increase awareness but also aim to accelerate the female digital economy.
As we know, 50% of the population is female, and the industry needs to reflect the wider community as ICT is now a universal platform for the digital economy and society. Further, while men are overwhelmingly in senior management, women make more than 70% of all purchasing decisions in the home. As the industry focuses more on smart home and applications in health, education etc, the role of women becomes more and more important to the ICT sector.
What are the greatest challenges women face in this industry?
The key issue is industry culture. ICT companies have focussed in particular on STEM qualifications, and STEM subjects attract fewer girls than boys. This is changing slowly as there is a concerted effort to attract girls through special programs, However, girls and women need to understand the relevance of ICT to their daily lives, and to the issues that engage them, such as health, education and the future of society. We need to make the clear link to these issues, and show them how becoming involved in the industry will enable them to make a difference in these key areas.
Retention of women who do join the Industry is also a challenge, and this comes back to culture. This is why there is a relatively small number of women in senior levels. The industry itself – especially men – need to understand that we need a diversity of perspectives, talents and inputs in order to succeed in the digital age. ICT is a platform for the whole of the economy and society and we therefore don’t just need network engineers in the sector – we need health and education experts, social scientists, anthropologists, lawyers and policy makers. When viewed in this way, the ICT workforce needs to be a reflection is the broader society at large. In this type of environment, a more open and inclusive environment, women would feel more welcome and appreciated, and fulfilled.
Today’s corporate environment usually means lucrative income and great working conditions. Do you have any tips and tricks for women – how can they succeed in this kind of environment, what is the success formula?
There is a growing importance for more role models, mentorship and sponsorship and I always encourage this. But I do feel that this is not a woman’s problem. It’s important that more men get involved and that we encourage them to make a concerted effort to help change the culture for the reasons I mention above.
As we can see with recent Nobel prize, situation is changing when it comes to science. How much has it changed towards women in technology and communications during last decade?
As of this year, the Nobel prize has been awarded to 844 men and only 49 women. We don’t all want to be Marie Curie, as stated by Athene Donald, but the demographic of winners need to show that it is not only the stereotype of white males who are the heroes of science. Indeed, it was woman who sent man to the moon, and it was woman who got them back when problems began.
During your career, what was the worst situation for women you have evidenced?
I think we all know the problems that are facing women. The importance now should be placed on solutions.
Which company could be highlighted as the role model for other businesses, when it comes to work diversity?
I am pleased that there are many and the importance now is on real action. In Croatia if we look at Infobip, 37% of the organisations’ talent are female.
I was also pleased to be part of the Cisco launch of the Mutliplier Effect Pledge which I talk about in my article.
GSMA are continuing to run the Connected Women programme (now Women4Tech) which I launched in 2011, and highlights the importance of accelerating the female digital economy and is inclusive of the whole industry. And as a tool for overcoming diversity, I also use The GC Index® in my work. It provides a great tool, language and a framework of how everyone can contribute to the process of innovation and success.
Is this you first time in Croatia? What did impress you the most?
This was the second time I was invited to Croatia. Infobip were my very kind hosts. I have known them since they were a company of five and I have been so proud to see how they have grown as an organisation and also been loyal to the country. I was impressed by the kindness of people living in Croatia and the beauty of the country.
What did you talk about at the GSMA WAS8 event in Rovinj?
‘Solutions for a complex world’ was the theme for WAS8. We know what the problems are so we were not there to talk about these specifically, but more about the solutions for the industry. We know its not women’s problem. Diversity is a critical business success factor so we were here to talk about the future of the industry, best practices for inclusion of diversity of thought and perspective and the solutions.
How much do you know about telecommunication industry in Croatia? We are very competitive in this industry!
I know the industry very well as I have experienced it globally for the last 18 years. The future is exciting for Croatia as it continues to grow and to focus on its future talent and future leaders for innovation.
The #MeToo movement shook up entertainment industry. I believe it could also make difference in this industry.
…this is not happening at the moment. Why is that so?
As we know, #MeToo is about sexual harassment. If we focus on a more normalised culture moving forward, where women are seen as equals, we will no longer be victimised like this and as a result we will feel more empowered to know how to deal with it and to no longer tolerate it. I believe that the campaign has raised a lot of awareness around the wider issues facing women.