Vodafone’s Head of Partnerships and Alliances, Kathy Quashie, discusses her experiences of promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives in the telco channel, and what more can be done to improve equal representation in a traditionally male-led industry.
Throughout her career, Kathy Quashie, Vodafone’s Head of Partnerships and Alliances has always found that encouraging a diverse pool of colleagues is the best way to deliver excellent performance. After all, if your customer base is diverse, you’ll need a diverse team to properly entice and serve those customers”, she says.
While the channel sector has made promising strides in recent years to become more diverse, Quashie says she would like to see a concerted effort among all stakeholders in the industry to keep moving forward, offering new opportunities to people from different backgrounds.
“I believe that everyone should have the chance to feel appreciated at work, while being themselves and being able to identify with leaders that they can aspire to be one day. Those in positions of power and influence must play their part, and use their status as a platform for change in a way that benefits everyone,” Quashie says.
Diversity in the channel today
Quashie notes how movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have brought to the fore the vital importance of diverse thought and equal representation between the corporate world and wider society. “Every company needs to seize this opportunity and reconsider how they nurture talent from all walks of life, so that they can benefit from everyone’s varying experiences and insights,” she says.
Quashie highlights education around what the channel can offer people is a really important part of inspiring a greater mix of people into the sector. “It is not just an environment where technology expertise is needed, but also one where customer-facing soft skills such as account management, marketing and sales play a crucial role in day-to-day operations”, she says.
“Technology is still a male-led industry and the need to bring diversity of thought to collaborate with the technology in use is crucial,” she says. “Clearly explaining this to people outside the industry is our responsibility, and is what I believe will decide the future of its relationship with diversity and inclusion.”
Improving representation in future
Quashie clearly recognises the upside potential to be gained within the industry, “We have a fantastic opportunity to foster greater diversity in the channel. It will not be a quick fix – encouraging more people from different backgrounds into the sector needs to be built alongside a cultural shift within the wider tech industry”, she says.
“There is still a lack of understanding of what careers in the IT sector entail, and it is incumbent upon all of us working in the tech sector to inform young people about the many interesting opportunities available to them across the industry.
In addition to this, Quashie believes that all companies need to build mentoring and development programs, as well as providing supportive maternity policies and flexible working practices to motivate a more diverse group of employees into their ranks.
“This is what we try to do at Vodafone, with programs like ReConnect, flexible working and a pioneering maternity policy. By creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, we hope to improve the lives of our employees, and motivate our customers, partners and the wider business community to do the same,” Quashie says.
Vodafone’s stake in the debate
Quashie speaks of Vodafone’s, progress with measures that encourage greater diversity in the workplace. “We have a range of initiatives that support the LGBTQ+ community, victims of domestic abuse and our global #ChangeTheFace initiative, which calls on technology leaders to join Vodafone and make a pledge to increase diversity and equality in the UK tech sector.
We have also worked with Code First to provide computing training for teenage girls. This scheme teaches basic knowledge of developer programmes, and enables students to create a website by the end of the course. This provides great insight into what a programming job would be like. Many of us might be great at coding, but the only way to find that out is to give it a go”, she says.
“We are always looking for ways to improve. Our priority now is to keep listening to our colleagues and to make meaningful changes that truly drive a diverse and inclusive culture, for all at Vodafone and society more broadly.”
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