Despite the strides made in DE&I across the industry, there is plenty of progress still to be made when it comes to getting more women in the workforce, particularly in leadership and executive-level positions.
Research shows that the hiring process across the entire technology sector — as with many others — is teeming with discrimination and bias. The study shows 51% of women working in the global technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) industry report they feel less optimistic about career prospects since the pandemic, with 57% of TMT women saying they expect to leave their current employer for a new role within the next 24 months with the likes of lack of work/life balance one of the biggest reason driving desire for change.
Even though hardship is faced industry-wide, many women have successful careers in telco. In celebration of their fantastic achievements and positive contributions to the telecommunications industry, we shine a light on 10 leading ladies in the sector worldwide.
10. Belinda Finch
Experienced Group Chief Information Officer Finch has a rich history of working in the technology industry. Her wealth of experience in telecommunications and utilities infrastructure brings positives to Three and the wider telco sphere, having previously worked as Group CIO and Chief of Staff at Centrica across multiple digital transformation roles at Vodafone.
In her current role, Finch is responsible for delivering the final stages of Three’s IT transformation programme, working with Three’s product teams to drive system improvements that will result in better customer experience.
As CIO of BT Group’s Consumer Division, Vafiadis oversees the core IT infrastructure that supports the three main brands of the business, namely EE, BT, and Plusnet. Her career in tech has spanned more than 20 years, one of her most significant achievements included working on the build and launch of the 4G network, which underpinned the EE Brand Launch – managing all network and device deliverables and subsequent rollout to provide award winning coverage and capacity, enabling one of the fastest rollouts in the world.
In post as CEO of Vodafone’s Europe Cluster - which encompasses Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Czech Republic, Albania and Turkey - since 2018, Timuray has been on the executive board of the multinational telecommunications company since 2014. In her role Timuray is also responsible for overseeing Vodafone's interests in Egypt and its joint venture with Liberty Global in the Netherlands. She is the Chairperson of Vodafone Turkey, Vice-Chairperson of VodafoneZiggo Netherlands, and a Board member of Vodafone Egypt.
7. Anne Boden
Launching mobile banking app Starling Bank to offer people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past, Boden has grown the bank from a start up to a platform used by more than 3.6 million customers, as of the year ending March 2023. A vocal advocate for getting women in male-dominated spaces, her 2020 book, Banking On It, reads as a cautionary tale for female entrepreneurs. Starling’s Founder uses her platform to be a powerful advocate for more women taking up leadership roles.
Qualcomm's Armstrong is an instrumental figure in the business, and over her almost three decades at the company has played a pivotal role in the development of mobile internet technology among other significant achievements. She has held a variety of leadership roles during her time at Qualcomm, leading teams including the mobile chipset division and software engineering business unit. Armstrong is part of Qualcomm’s Government Affairs group, where she supports the likes of cyber security, STEM and STEM diversity.
Palmer has held a variety of roles throughout her tenure at Verizon, a company she joined at the turn of the millennium. Now in the role of Chief Technology Ambassador, she holds firm the belief that her main role and that of her team is building a better future through mobility, technology and innovation for Verizon customers. Palmer is a major advocate for women in business, is a mentor and actively promotes education and careers in STEM for young women.
4. Jeanie York
CTO at Virgin Media O2, York is an active member of the UK branch of Women in Cable Telecommunications, which supports, encourages and promotes women in the industry. York’s career spans IT and telco, with experience working for the likes of Liberty Global and CenturyLink. With a firm passion for people and cultivating teams to be their best, York is committed to making a difference in the world by leveraging technology and innovation to help communities grow, stay safe and keep connected.
Boasting a caeer with almost three decades of experience as an executive leader, since 2020 Robinson has held the role of Senior Vice President of Network Engineering and Operations of the Central Region at T-Mobile US. Robinson has made waves industry-wide and was our cover star back at the start of the year. In her role as SVP, she has been at the forefront of leading teams to design, build and maintain a cutting-edge 5G network while driving operational excellence.
CEO of Vodafone Ghana Obo-Nai was the first woman to take up the position when she was appointed in 2019. She has worked for Vodafone Ghana - the country’s second-largest mobile carrier by market share - for more than 12 years.
She has an unwavering dedication to empowering people across Ghana with telecommunication technology and ensuring its use for good, including reducing mortality among the pregnant population - statistics of which are staggeringly high compared to the worldwide average.
As well as this, she champions and shares with female industry colleagues how women can overcome common obstacles faced in STEM subjects such as bias and prejudice, and utilises her more than two decades of communications experience to mentor and encourage others to take up careers in telecommunications.
1. Anne Chow
Consistently topping our top 10s of leading women in telco, Chow has had a stellar career in the telecommunications industry. With a staggering 32 years at AT&T - the latter three years of which as CEO of its business division - she worked at the telecommunications giant for the majority of her career, joining in 1990.
Under her leadership, she was responsible for managing a workforce of more than 30,000 employees, including those working for most of the world's fortune 1000 companies. Now, she is a Board Member for 3M and FranklinCovey.
Starting off with an engineering background, Chow has both Bachelor’s and two Masters degrees from Cornell, and has transferred her skills to work her way to the top of the telco sphere over the last three decades.
In that time, she has been a strong advocate and driving force in ensuring the advancement of women and minorities in the telecommunications industry, helping more than 400 women expand their professional horizons or obtain promotions within the AT&T business.