By Contributing Editor, Kathy Xu
Following its success at International Telecoms Week (ITW) 2015, the panel “Advancing Women in Telco” returned this year to ITW 2016 in Chicago to discuss the role of women within the male-dominated telecommunications industry. Moderated by Alan Burkitt-Gray, Editor of Capacity Magazine and Global Telecoms Business, the panel converged four executive thought-leaders including Brooks L. McCorcle, President of AT&T Partner Solutions; Michelle Bourque, SVP of Product, Marketing and Access Strategy Planning for BCE Nexxia; Mardia van der Walt-Korsten, SVP of Deutsche Telekom ICSS; and Cengiz Oztelcan, CEO of Türk Telekom International.
The topic of discussion? What will take the telecommunications industry to the next level?
To answer this question, each panelist shared their ideas on how to advocate for women within the telecommunications industry on a fundamental level. Ms. McCorcle referenced a need for developmental programs in which women can mentor, coach and network with one another, while Ms. Bourque suggested a new approach to talent acquisition by attracting a larger population of skilled women. In addition, Ms. van der Walt suggested companies foster a culture more inclusive of women within individual organizations, referencing the critical need to retain women who hold senior management positions. Providing a male perspective on this topic, Mr. Oztelcan shared his belief that the education system must teach young women the sciences at an earlier stage in their academic careers in order to reinforce their natural abilities within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.
In addition to offering their personal interpretations of this topic, several panelists shared with the audience programs currently in place to help propel the presence of women in telecommunications, including AT&T’s “Aspire,” which invests in high school students and specific organizations including Girl Scouts and Girls Who Code, and Deutsche Telekom’s “Start up!”, a 15-18 month graduate trainee program providing mentorship from experienced professionals.
All panelists agree that in order for women to become properly represented within the male-dominated telecommunications industry, it is critical to focus on further acceptance of women within fields of science. Moving forward, men must become part of the solution by utilizing their industry roles to help improve social dynamics and enable a more inclusive and innovative community.