TM Forum: Driving diversity and inclusion

TM Forum: Driving diversity and inclusion

The world’s first industry standard for D&I in the workplace is the aim of the TM Forum, the D&I Council including Colt, stand together to inspire change

Diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees, and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion.

Vicky Sleight, Global Director, Human Factor Diversity and Inclusion Council, with TM Forum, is not surprised by the findings from consultants McKinsey as she is inspiring change within the telecommunications industry alongside Keri Gilder, CEO of Colt Technology Services, who is a firm believer in the power of connectivity and the chair of the TMF Diversity & Inclusion Council.

TM Forum, one of the world’s largest industry associations representing the interests of the technology and telco sectors, is collaborating with the TM Forum D&I Council to create the first industry standard for diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the industry. 

“We are working to help make the tech communications industry succeed in being the most diverse, equal, and inclusive industry in the world,” said Sleight who leads the global industry collaboration and Executive Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion.  

Keri Gilder, CEO, Colt, is leading a global collaboration project focused on making the telecommunications industry the most diverse and inclusive industry in order to help accelerate transformation of the industry and underpin its continued success in the digital economy.

“We wanted to work with the D&I Council to achieve the bold ambition of how we make real change happen,” said Sleight who pointed out they are also focusing on this goal alongside the founding members of the advisory board which includes Accenture, Accedian, Amdocs, Bain & Company, BT, Colt, Ciena, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Rostelecom and Verizon

TM Forum is hoping the Inclusion and Diversity Score (IDS) will improve diversity both within technology and eventually across all industries. This work is part of ‘The Human Factor’, one of the alliance’s six key areas of focus. TM Forum is made up of 850+ global companies working together to break down technology and cultural barriers between digital service providers, technology suppliers, consultancies, and systems integrators.


TM Forum’s collaboration with Colt Technology Services

Gilder, who became CEO of Colt in May 2020, is not only leading the company’s Diversity Council, to ensure Colt is a business where “everyone feels they can bring their true selves to work”, but was appointed chair of TM Forum’s Diversity and Inclusion Council where she works alongside Sleight.

Her appointment at Colt neatly coincided with her D&I role at TM Forum as she was recommended for the post via a women’s networking group. “I think this is a good example where women's networks can help as there are senior executives out there that want to make change happen,” said Gilder.

“I was aware change was not happening in the tech and telco industry when it came to D&I and we looked at how to make a real difference. That's how we started to think about the IDS. It is important we start treating D&I like we do the rest of our businesses by using benchmarks and metrics and measuring what truly matters.

“If it continues to be a moral imperative, change will never happen. What it needs to be is as a strategic initiative and central to the business which is what we’ve done at Colt.

We have ideated within the council, to develop a score that is simple, future-ready, adaptable, and diverse enough to understand there are cultural nuances and different geographies around the world. We also wanted to ensure a level of adaptability to ensure the score can evolve as we start to mature as an industry,” she said.


Why the Inclusion and Diversity Score (IDS) is important

Sleight and Gilder are collaborating to create the first D&I industry standard to measure if a company has an inclusive culture. “Right now, there are no universal and intersectional metrics that help us understand how we are progressing,” said Sleight who points out that while c-level executives recognise the importance of D&I only seven organisations are in the top 100 global benchmarks that are from telecoms according to both Refinitive top 100 D&I list and the FT Top 100.

“Driving the meaningful change, which we're passionate about, not only requires leadership definition and determination, but also evidence and metrics. Without those science-based targets and metric based targets, we won't get anywhere because we don't actually know where we are today.

“We're looking to create an actual industry standard in which we're not just measuring diversity but we're also measuring inclusion and the human sentiment of the employees to understand if a company really has an inclusive culture.

“That’s why we started to work with the TM Forum council members, including Bain & Company, who are one of our major consultants. The pilot's gone well, so far, and we're getting ready for the next stage,” said Sleight.

“This means a lot to TM Forum as we want to create an industry standard so we can understand where we are now and help companies progress on their D&I journey. 

We will not just be giving a number back, but a fully detailed score and we will then move on to providing those interventions to help support the company and make that real change happen for them.”

Sleight commented on the partnership with Colt and the strong relationship with Gilder saying: “TM Forum and Colt are equally as passionate, but we bring together different experiences. It's diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of perspective.” 


D&I in practice at Colt Technology Services

Gilder pointed out that having a base of 850 members at TM Forum is critical for understanding best practice and understanding the talent base within the technology and telco sector.

“For me, I can bring the real world example of how this actually is going to get implemented within an organisation. At Colt we've been able to do this over the last couple of years. We have developed five different employee resource groups, and that's been a start within Colt because now we've moved beyond gender. We're now looking at disability, ethnicity, race and LGBQT. We've moved out into the grander world of diversity and we're starting to develop the HR data in order to provide what's required to have a holistic view.”

Gilder pointed out the first move is collating the data. “The first challenge is getting the data and making sure that what you're looking at provides the insights that are inclusive of the entire Colt community.

 “Although we have it, when it comes to gender it has to be self-projected and reported for practically every other diverse metric. As we've started to develop the metric, I've been working with my HR organisation and our employee resource groups to understand how we can get people comfortable with providing the data so that we can have a realistic metric that comes out of the scoring. 

“We have also looked at what is the easiest way to implement this into the way we measure across our organisation and we've come to the conclusion that over time it will be best incorporated into our employee engagement surveys.”

Gilder said the advantage of using the TM Forum is they are independent so the employees may feel more comfortable divulging personal information. “The TM Forum can help us to obtain the data we need for the IDS because the employee may have more psychological safety by providing that data to a non-employer so there are a lot of benefits.”

She pointed out the TM Forum also helps Colt to build the IT stack, help build applications, program interfaces, and APIs. “They help me think differently and more innovatively about how I'm approaching the technical side of my business.

“The TM Forum has helped us to understand how we can approach our business using the same type of methodology, standards, a baseline that is going across the industry that will enable collaboration, and drive this to a point where it is a part of our development stack, but it's the development stack of our people. It's not the development stack of our technology.”


War for talent

According to Sleight, despite the fact more women graduate each year compared to men, the technology and telco sector is losing the war on talent to more traditional industries such as pharmaceutical and health as they are now asking for the same skills set such as software developers and data scientists.

“When we talk to CEOs in telcos, they will say to us, I want to benchmark against not just my own industry and my own competitors, but I want to benchmark where I'm losing this war on talent. So the brand's not enough,” commented Sleight.

“The culture has got to be right but it is not just attracting staff it is also about retaining them. You may have a diverse board, but if your employees don't feel it's an inclusive culture, then you'll not retain that diverse talent.

“The war for talent is one thing we want to win. At the centre of all this transformation is human-centred design, which is what we're focused on. The pandemic has highlighted that even more. If you take millennials, 80% see inclusion as a very important factor when choosing an employer and 39% of them will leave if it is not inclusive.”(Deloitte University & BJKLI Report – Unleashing the Power of Inclusion).

Sleight pointed out that figures from the Office of National Statistics showed disabled people suffered more during the round of redundancies during the pandemic. A total of 22.1 in every thousand people that have been made redundant have a disability, versus 13 people per thousand with a non-disability. That's a real challenge we're having to face,” commented Sleight.

“We also recognise that diversity and inclusion is a business critical and strategic imperative. It’s not just a gender issue, societal or CSR, and diversity exists beyond gender, LGBTQ+ and ethnicity. It should be equal for all, including accessibility, neurodiversity and can all be a key differentiator. Many efforts focus on visible diversity, yet we believe inclusion is more important in order to attract and retain diverse talent,” she said. 

Gilder pointed out there are only five women CEO’s leading 31 companies within the  global telco space and only 60 of the 330 top management positions are held by women.

“What we need is to get these diverse employees in leadership positions where they own the technology direction and own a very strategic part of the business,” said Gilder, who has a 50% representation of gender on the Colt leadership team.

“We’ve seen over and over again that when we do that, we're more successful in innovation, more successful in being a resilient company and we're more profitable as a company. The reality is if we don't start paying attention to this, then we won't be able to attract the talent that we need in order to drive the innovation that's required in order to build resilience in a COVID world. We're going to lose out to other industries because they're now asking for the same skills.”

Gilder actively promotes the telco industry to youngsters. “We do work in a super cool industry which works with the likes of Apple and Google, so I usually manage to encourage two or three girls to think about telco as a profession when I finish a talk.”


Global aspirations for IDS

Sleight points out that as TM Forum moves forward with the IDS they are aiming to make it more adaptable to take into account the initial challenges over data, geographical regions, languages and employment law.

“We've just finished the pilot and are working to make the score adaptable as we understand in some countries there's differences in terms of law on what data we can collect. One thing we have realised is that to deliver IDS and to make change happen, we've got to get sponsorship from the very top,” said Sleight, pointing out they have created a CEO Council to give this issue the focus it requires on the global stage and to move it beyond the premise of HR.

“This is not just about ticking a box to say that they're part of this, but it is for them to drive IDS through their own organisations. This is to ensure IDS becomes a standard so that we can support the industry and stick to our mission because it is a bold ambition to transform the tech and communications industry to be the world leader in diversity, equality and inclusion.”


McKinsey: Diversity wins: How inclusion matters


Do you take your whole self to work? A report by consultants McKinsey concluded that companies should build a culture where all employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work. 

“Managers should communicate and visibly embrace their commitment to multivariate forms of diversity, building a connection to a wide range of people and supporting employee resource groups to foster a sense of community and belonging,” comments the report Diversity wins: How inclusion matters.

McKinsey focused on three industries with the highest levels of executive-team diversity 

  • Technology
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare

While overall sentiment on diversity was 52% positive and 31% negative, sentiment on inclusion was markedly worse, at only 29% positive and 61% negative. “This encapsulates the challenge that even the more diverse companies still face in tackling inclusion. Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough - it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.”

McKinsey pointed out companies need a systematic business-led approach to inclusion and diversity and bolder action on inclusion.

The report highlights five areas of action:

  • Increase diverse representation, particularly in leadership and critical roles
  • Strengthen leadership and accountability for delivering I&D goals
  • Enable equality or opportunity through fairness and transparency
  • Promote openness, tackling bias and discrimination
  • Foster belonging through support for multivariate diversity


Spotlight on Colt Technology Services

Colt comes from the original name of City of London Telecommunications when it was founded in 1992 by entrepreneur Jim Hynes.

Keri Gilder has been the Chief Executive Officer at Colt since May 2020, and is responsible for executing the company strategy which centres around transforming the way the world works through the power of connectivity.

Commenting on Colt’s work with TM Forum she said: “We do need an independent voice, which is a non-profit organisation, to help the telco industry build the Inclusion and Diversity Standard (IDS).

“But I think the other important thing is that it should not stop there. We are building the council in order to enable the advocacy of the future,” she said.

The Colt IQ Network connects more than 900+ data centres and over 29,000 on net buildings across Europe, Asia and North America’s largest business hubs.

Colt understands today’s shifting connectivity requirements and provides agile, on-demand and secure high bandwidth networking and voice solutions to ensure enterprises can thrive. Customers include data-intensive organisations spanning more than 210 cities in more than 30 countries.

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