WTSA-16 Highlights: ITU launches Women in Standardization Expert Group (+VIDEO)

wiseITU’s first Women in Standardization Expert Group (WISE) event yesterday brought together delegates and ITU staff attending the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly 2016 (WTSA-16) to learn, connect and celebrate the continued efforts towards gender equality in leadership positions.

The event consisted of a workshop on practical skills to overcome gender differences in negotiations, followed by a lively panel discussion highlighting the experiences of leading women from the information and communication technology (ICT) and standardization fields.

RELATED: Join the EQUALS movement, a joint ITU and UN Women campaign that aims to achieve online gender equality by 2030. Follow the conversation at #beEQUALS.

The women panelists from all regions of the world told the audience how they achieved success in a male-dominated ICT field – and how girls and young women could do the same.

Advice for rising women ICT leaders

Dr. Rim Belhassine-Cherif, Executive Director of Tunisie Telecom said women should trust their own ability and skills, ignore negative factors that can hold them back, say yes to challenging projects, and consider career success as important to their well-being and happiness.

Julie Zoller, Senior Deputy Coordinator & Director of Multilateral Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, stressed the importance of setting goals.“Where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?” she asked the audience, rhetorically. “Ask for what you need. And articulate where you want to go. If you don’t know where you’re going, no one else knows where you’re going.”

Women leaders should recruit with a bias towards women, but also based on merit, said Hilda Mutseyekwa, Director Economics, Tariffs and Competition, Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ). They should also not forget to take the time to mentor and assist younger women colleagues, she said.

Men must play a role

30659348315_5b8407c56a_zSeveral panelists also highlighted the role men can play.

“If we don’t have men as part of the conversation, we are just an echo chamber,” said Ms. Monique Morrow, CTO of New Frontiers Engineering at Cisco – and chair of WISE. “All of my coaches have been male. They’ve been fantastic. They pushed me beyond my comfort zone.”

Other panelists reiterated Morrow’s comments that it is very important to have men as part of the efforts to bring gender equality to standardization work – and to the ICT industry as a whole.

“One particular boss used to say, ‘I’m going to put you up for Chair’,” said Ms. Zoller. “If I resisted, he’d say: ‘You’re ready.’ Having someone push you … beyond your comfort zone, has been very important.”

What does success look like?

Ms Guðrún Rögnvaldardóttir, Vice President of the Technical Board of CEN & CENELEC, spoke about how a standard for equal pay management systems has been developed in her native Iceland to help close a persistent 10-15% gender pay gap.

Ms Morrow had a different definition.

“It’s the 21st-century. Success is: We will never have to talk about this anymore,” said Morrow. “I’m very concerned that we still are.”

For more insight on the topic from Morrow, watch the video below.

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