Features and Analysis

Do we still need women’s networking groups?

Ahead of the Women of the Digital World networking lunch at TM Forum Live!, Sarah Wray considers the value of gender-focused business groups.

I have never been certain what to make of female-focused networking events. If we want to be treated equally in the workplace, as of course we ought to be, shouldn’t we be networking on equal terms too? And can the gender focus maybe even give the impression that we can’t quite cut it in the broader business world?

I confess that I’ve wondered, perhaps somewhat arrogantly, aren’t we past all that? But it’s clear that it’s more complicated – some preliminary research makes shocking reading.

As I noted in our TM Forum Live! themed playlist, thankfully things have moved on somewhat since Peggy Seeger sang I’m Gonna Be An Engineer about the trials of aiming for a job in a male-dominated industry. But they haven’t moved on as much as you’d hope. The statistics I found are startling – and depressing.

To name just a few:

  • A report from Gartner last year found that the percentage of women taking the CIO role has remained largely static at 14 percent since 2004
  • Last summer, Google, Facebook, Apple and other big tech companies released figures showing that men outnumbered women 4 to 1 or more in their technical sector, and they will need to fill more than 650,000 new jobs by 2018 to meet their growth projections
  • 2008 research by the Harvard Business Review found that as many as 50 percent of women working in SET roles will, over time, leave because of “hostile work environments”, feelings of isolation and lack of a clear career path.
  • An updated HBR study in 2014 found that things aren’t getting much better either, pinpointing “powerful antigens” in SET environments, such as “geek culture” and a pattern of long, family-unfriendly hours. Female respondents said they felt they had experienced bias in performance evaluation and “double standards”.
  • SET men are 27 percent more likely to see their innovative idea make it to market than women 
Be the change

The situation is not only unfair, it makes bad business sense too – with companies suffering from skills shortages in many key areas of the digital world, we need to make full use of all resources.

Clearly, sustained action is needed to make a difference, and if we want to see that change, working together seems like a good place to start. That’s the aim of TM Forum’s Women of the Digital World LinkedIn group and networking events.

Joann O’Brien, TM Forum VP, Agile Collaboration and leader of the TM Forum Women of the Digital World group, agrees.

She said, “We need to reverse the trending decline of women in technology or this will affect the diversity of influence in our industry in the future.  Other sectors have recognised for a long time the positive benefits on their industry by ensuring a broad influence.”

Indeed, both men and women are encouraged to take part in the TM Forum Women of the Digital World group, since a diverse workforce benefits us all, as companies and individuals.

O’Brien added, “Given TM Forum has a membership base of over 900 member companies, with many leading female talent,  let’s take this opportunity to provide a networking platform to our community of women in technology.”

And many of these leading women will be speaking at this year’s TM Forum Live!, including:  Elpida Ormanidou, Walmart; Shruti Rawat, AT&T; Tanja de Groot, Alcatel-Lucent; Harmeen Mehta, Bharti Airtel, and many more.

The Women of the Digital World networking lunch books out early every time (so do reserve your place!).

O’Brien explained, “This year we will challenge ourselves as a community to identify the top three actions we can take to make a positive difference and strive to buck the trending decline of women in technology.”

This will be my first Women of the Digital World event, and my first female-focused networking session, and I am approaching it with a fresh outlook and an open mind. I’m excited to see where it can take us. See you there?

And I have been assured ­– no cupcakes, we promise.

What do you think? Do the statistics surprise you? Is there value in women’s networking groups?


About The Author


Sarah is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in new technologies and how they impact our everyday lives.

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