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In an attempt to shed light on one of the ICT industry’s leading women, Telecom Review spoke to Rubi Kaur, technology strategy manager and chair of Vodafone Women in Technology Network in an exclusive interview to know more about her perspective on gender equality in the tech workspace.

As the newly-appointed technology strategy manager, how do you plan to strengthen the execution of Vodafone’s products and solutions?

Vodafone began its journey towards its vision to become a new generation telco several years ago. A big part of that vision is our company strategy to be a technology communications (Tech Comms) company, enabled through our technology strategy. My role at Vodafone involves technology strategy creation and development, but also strategy adoption too. We can create the best technology strategy, but if no one is ready to adopt and use it, then our strategy has failed. Becoming a Tech Comms company means offering more than just connectivity. We will offer the best customer digital experience and put our customers at the heart of everything we do.

Being part of the team creating and developing this approach and enabling technology strategy is incredibly exciting and challenging too at the same time. It’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be working and interfacing across all our technology teams in Vodafone. To help this, I’ll be establishing a technology strategy community that will have representation from all the market strategy leads across the Vodafone footprint. By working together using our collective knowledge, we will be building the strategy; learning from each other, developing and exchanging ideas as we go on our technology strategy development journey together.

Having a Women in Technology Network within Vodafone reflects the importance of women’s role in the ICT industry. As the chair of this network, how do you see women’s role today in the industry?

It has been over a year since I created the Women in Technology Network. Since then, we have grown our membership, and our community now has become a hive of activity for our members to network, attend events, listen to speakers, share learnings, and help shine a spotlight on the need for greater diversity and gender equality in the tech industry.

We are an open group, anyone from Vodafone can join us. Male allyship and advocacy is super important to us and I am so proud that we have men on our committee too. The number of women taking up technical roles is still not at parity in Vodafone and so it’s important to have a network to encourage and help address that imbalance.

Gender equality is something I’ve been passionate about since I started in the tech industry 20 years ago. In the early years of my tech career, I would be hard pushed to find more than 2 other females in any technical team. Today the tech industry is starting to recognise that diverse and inclusive teams perform far better. While women still constitute less than 20% of the tech population, the tech industry still has some way to go before we reach parity, but I passionately believe that creating the right environment and culture where women feel valued, have a greater sense of belonging and attachment to their work and company, they are therefore less likely to leave, which is seen as one of biggest problems of retaining women in tech as well as building a healthy pipeline of female talent.

Our Women in Technology network mission statement is “We will support, encourage and empower all women in tech to be incredible #VisibleTechWomen”. The industry needs more female role models who are working in tech roles. It’s often thought that role models are often senior figures who people look up to, but equally we need early career role models too. We have many women in Vodafone who young girls contemplating STEM subjects and tech careers can identify with and therefore they can help nurture the next generation female tech pipeline through coaching and mentoring onto technical career paths.

What are the core principles you follow as a leading woman ICT leader?

There are a few principles which are important to me. The first is to be authentic. Bringing my whole self to the role and being genuine and honest are super important. For me, this builds trust which is a vital component if we want people to come with us on our journey and believe in our movement for change. That trust has to be earned and being authentic and open in everything helps achieve it.

On top of that, I am a strong believer in collaboration and working together. No one has a monopoly on the best ideas and solutions. Only when we listen to each other and share our knowledge and viewpoints do we make progress in everything we want to achieve. It’s vital to recoginise that everyone's voice is valid, no matter how challenging to the status quo, it’s just as important as every other voice in the room.

Lastly, I believe it's important to be humble and show kindness. Humility inspires greater teamwork all round and creates a culture of acceptance no matter who we are, so that we all move together with greater respect for one another.

In your perspective, how do tech innovation and gender equity go hand-in-hand?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Report, Innovation is six times higher at organizations with the most equal workplace cultures. Like many companies, Vodafone too needs to continually innovate to stay competitive. Diverse teams bring diverse thinking leading to radical solutions and this could never be achieved through monoculture team environments. I’m a firm believer that we need diverse teams at the very concept stages of innovative ideas, through the development, testing and deployment stages to ensure that we build for all sections of society. In effective we need to embrace diverse teams' input throughout the entire product lifecycle.

In Caroline de Criado’s book Invisible Women, she brilliantly exposes a world of data bias, built for men.  In the book there are many accounts from many industries where products and services were built and tested only by men, with minimal or no female input, yet these products and services must be used by all society, which includes women. It’s incredibly important therefore to ensure we build our products and services for all of society and take into account any differences and needs we must develop, otherwise we will start to leave people behind as they have been excluded from using our products and services.

What are your goals for 2022?

My main goal for the Women in Tech Network is to continually move us towards gender equality. I hope to continue leading the Women in Tech Network, grow the network and keep shining a spotlight on the need for greater gender equality not just at Vodafone but in greater society. We have many initiatives this year from looking at the blockers to female progression to launching Vodafone Experience days to encourage young girls to take up STEM subjects and discover what it’s like to work in a technology communications company like Vodafone. 

My goal is to also grow the technology strategy community. This is an important community that will have market representation where we will work collaboratively together, sharing our strategy adoption challenges and our best practices, learning from each other, and creating the right can-do culture to refresh and further develop our technology strategy. 

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