25 February, 2021
Digital Upskilling for All: improving gender diversity of telecom workforce
On 25 February, the social partners from the EU telecom sector, ETNO and UNI Europa, organized a virtual round table conference: Deep Dive on Digital Upskilling Best Practices to increase gender diversity of telecom workforce.
The meeting was part of a joint ETNO-UNI Europa social dialogue Project funded with the financial support of the EU commission. 52 representatives from 24 companies/organizations participated in the full day event and were joined by Mercer Consulting, who helped with the preparation of the digital round table. The meeting was translated simultaneously from English into 4 languages (French, Portuguese, Polish and Spanish) by Oluseyi.
The aim of the meeting was to discuss the best practices identified throughout the first phase of the project and create recommended pathways for the digital upskilling and inclusion of the diversity group within the workforce of the European Telecoms sector. According to researches , 37% of European Union workers have insufficient digital skills – evidence points that the gap is widening.
Skills requirements in the Telecoms sector are rapidly changing due to constant technological innovation and market developments. The number of vacancies for highly skilled ICT roles is increasing exponentially and the sector cannot meet this demand by recruiting from the traditional ICT talent pool alone. In order to bridge this skills gap, Telecommunication companies are seeking to upskill their existing workforce.
This virtual event gathered experts from the sector to share identified best practices that promote gender diversity along the employee journey in a company. Only 12% of executives in leading telecom companies are female and the DESI 2020 report that shows that only 1 out of 6 ICT specialists are women. 
The full day event started with an introduction and welcome from Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO, who introduced the project as well as highlighted the need for the industry’s commitment to upskilling and training the ICT workforce in the telco sector with a specific focus on improving gender balance across all levels by working with social partners.
Next up was the presentation by Lucye Provera and Lea Lonstead, Mercer, on digital upskilling from the gender inclusion perspective. Sharing results from Mercer’s global 2020 “When Women
Thrive, Let’s Get Real about Equality” survey, Mercer examined the current state of gender representation in the technology industry and the best practices around improving gender diversity, using an evidence-based approach. An interactive poll asked to participants what methods of upskilling were currently in use by the companies. The results revealed that the majority of the organizations are working with a Build model – focusing on internal talent development.
Mercer highlighted key building blocks (drivers) of an effective gender upskilling strategy:
- Review HR processes: de-bias HR processes such as recruiting, performance management and pay;
- Share expertise: activate mentorship programs with mentors both men and women and include this goal in their performance management process;
- Reinforce networking: promote women as role-models and professional networking groups, both internally and externally;
- Build the future: define target of % women in succession plan for creative and innovative ICT roles (not only for role of execution);
- Make accessible: require a high number of female participants (such as 50%) in development/innovative/talent program;
- Back to work facilitation: propose technical upskilling/updating with flexible format aimed at women after long period out of work (e.g. maternity leave);
- Make women feel welcome: adapt physical office environments and build consistent flexible work policy (not-discriminatory).
The round table then proceeded to examine the five best practices identified for the Digital Upskilling to increase gender Diversity. Presentations were delivered by:
- Torkild Holmboe-Hay, Consultant at the Danish trade union 3F, who presented on the Hilfr Collective Agreement Online Platform (link to video)
- Kathryn Cullen, Programme Director at Technology Ireland Software Skillnet, who presented on their Women Reboot’s program (link to cvideo)
- Armand Leblois, Regional Manager Corporate Affairs Europe North, South UK and Ireland, who presented on Cisco’s Network Academy (link to video)
- Aniela Unguresan, co-founder of the EDGE Certified Foundation, and Samira Tavares Kruth Verdade, Quality & Methodology Coordinator, Operations- Quality & Certifications, Capgemini Brazil, who led a joint presentation on Capgemini: Young Women In Tech Program (link to video)
- Vidya Krishan, Chief Learning Officer & Global Head of Learning & Development, who presented on Ericsson: Design Your Future Program (link to video)
Read the full executive summary at the link below.
 The EU Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, Russell Reynolds research, The 100-Year LifeSurvey.
 The EU The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI)