From Bias to Balance: Closing the Gender Gap at GSMA Events

As a young(ish) woman working in events for the mobile industry, I’m painfully aware of the persistent and glaring gender gap in mobile and tech. Nearly every day I see a new conference or event crop up and I’m sad to see that broadly speaking, women are woefully underrepresented at these events, both in the conference agenda and in the audience.

The GSMA’s report ‘Accelerating the Digital Economy: Gender Diversity in the Telecommunications Sector’ indicates that in three-quarters of telecommunications companies surveyed, women accounted for less than 40% of the workforce and, unsurprisingly, female representation at senior levels is even lower. At Mobile World Congress this year, women accounted for about 18% of the attendees overall and 14% of the speakers in the conference programme.

The GSMA is working to address this imbalance, not only at our events but across the industry, through initiatives such as our Connected Women programme, but this is not something that will happen overnight.

I’ll be honest; the relatively low number of women in our industry overall makes for a significant challenge when it comes to putting more women into the agenda at Mobile World Congress and other GSMA events in the year. For us in the Content Team, it’s important to strike the right balance between improving the gender balance in the conference programme and ensuring we don’t pursue diversity for diversity’s sake. A crucial part of our job is selecting the right speakers, at the right level, for the right content, at the right time. Doing otherwise would be a disservice to our attendees.

It’s not just about increasing the number of women in the agenda. We need speakers (women and men) and content that demonstrate the impact of mobile today and into the future. Mobile is redefining every aspect of our lives and every day the industry and ecosystem grows as traditionally non-digital industries move into the digital age. Speakers and perspectives should accurately reflect an understanding of changing customer needs, a greater range of creative thinking and fresh ideas that challenge established practices.

As the GSMA extends its efforts to convene the industry, the Content Team will be working hard to encourage the participation of women in all of our conference programmes throughout the year. We’re tackling this in several ways such as identifying senior women from across the industry that we can approach for speaking engagements, encouraging more companies to submit women speakers in their Call For Papers process and continuing our commitment to building content into our agendas which requires a real diversity of perspectives.

So consider this our call to action! If you think there aren’t enough women in our events– do your bit to help us rectify it. Send us a Call For Papers submission that proposes a senior female speaker as well as a male. Send us a list of the most senior women in your organisation to add to our database. Recommend topics or themes that lend themselves to a need for greater gender diversity.

We can’t wait to hear from you!