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The big GSMA debate: Is technology helping or preventing us from advancing diversity & inclusion

Naomi Weiser

22 Mar 2021

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Do women help each other’s career, asks GSMA’s CMO. How is Amdocs eliminating unconscious bias? Is posting a black square on Instagram enough, asks CCGroup. And 10X10 thinks sacrifices are needed...

Did you know that...

  • More women using mobile internet could deliver $700 billion additional USD and GDP?
  • Companies with better diversity are eight times more likely to have better business success?

The impact of successful diversity & inclusion initiatives, how companies can (and should) change, and the role technology could play, were just some of the points raised in an eye-opening GSMA-hosted Live Talk discussion with Amdocs, GSMA, CCGroup and 10x10 – all organizations significantly committed to advancing diversity & inclusion.  

“It's not just about putting up a black square on your Instagram” (Anaïs Merlin)

It’s not just about SAYING you're going to do these great things... How are companies actually making the change?” asked Anais Merlin from UK-based CCGroup.

“Whether it’s technology or non-technology innovation, I think the ultimate goal is inclusion – diversity is just the means to get there” answered Idit Duvdevany Aronsohn who heads Corporate Responsibility Inclusion & Wellbeing at Amdocs. “We're looking at inclusive design as one of the main principles. We see so many examples of product innovations around the world that don’t fit people with disabilities, or people with different backgrounds and different social skills.”

The importance of inclusive design is something Andy Davis from 10x10 agrees on, referencing the criteria that influenced their search for new office space, which included wheelchair and lift accessibility, as well the presence of a mother’s room – “place for babies to go and get some rest and be fed and to be taken care of while some parents, especially mothers, are at work” – and a prayer room: “Little things, right? To us, it was a short list, but it was just really important”.

Is technology a foe or ally on the journey to greater diversity & inclusion?

Unconscious bias in the hiring process is a problem

Duvdevany-Aronsohn brought up the importance of eliminating unintentional unconscious bias in the hiring process, citing an example of the different questions that might be asked during an interview for a position requiring some travel: "Are you sure you know it's about traveling? Are you okay with traveling 30% of the time? I just want to make that you're okay with traveling 30% of the time," when you interview a woman. When you interview a man, they're just like, "It's travel," and you just tick the box and you continue. That's just one example”.

Also on the subject of hiring, Davis felt that there needs to be some “sacrifice” on the part of senior managers in order to be more inclusive: “I think if you're in a position and there needs to be change, sometimes you've got to sacrifice your seat there for change to happen.”

Merlin wanted to know what needs to be done to get more women into these senior roles, especially in technology, referencing again the importance of inclusive design: “If it's going to be good for women, we need to get women involved in the process, so how can we get these women involved?”

One way, suggested Davis, is to have other people involved in the hiring process, even if they’re more junior, “because they'll give you a perspective that is different to your own and they're able to spot talent”.

GSMA CMO Stephanie Lynch-Habib also pointed out that in in her own personal experience of a 25-plus years career, “every single person that has helped mentor me to the next level has been a man. I can name several instances where women of seniority actually just didn't help. They were doing more than not helping.”

How to use mobile technology for the greater good

Lynch-Habib explained how part of GSMA’s NGO /on-profit role is to advance advocacy ,i.e. “connectivity for good”, including activities to promote the use of mobile technology in low and middle-income countries. “A recent study found that including more women using mobile internet could deliver $700 billion additional USD and GDP. When you can close that gap in mobile internet use, you open up opportunities for women.”

Lynch-Habib highlighted GSMA’s Connected Women program which is trying to fill the mobile internet coverage gap, working with GSMA’s operator members to deploy “very simple or technology solutions or giving somebody a mobile phone so they can have a means to transact in their business, because many women and many people in low and middle-income countries, don't have access to a bank because they don't have enough money for a bank”.

Diversity & inclusion is about everyone working together

Lynch-Habib’s point about how resolving diversity & inclusion comes down to one overarching point –working together to solve the problem – was reiterated by all, including Merlin who observed that: “the emphasis shouldn't be on people of color or people who have disabilities or different sexual orientations to do the work and try to increase diversity by themselves. It should be a collective effort”.

 

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