Diversity and Inclusion: a key ingredient for success

Guest post from Jo Bertram, Chief Digital & Strategy Officer, O2 (Telefónica UK)

I recently had the opportunity to join a discussion on bringing more women into leadership roles at Mobile World Congress’s 4 Years from Now innovation and start up event for GSMA’s Female “Founders” fireside chat. I was joined by Jennifer Byrne, President of Quesnay, to talk about how we’re promoting diversity, both within our teams and the wider industry.

In my role at O2 I’m a proud spokesperson for diversity and inclusion. The foundation of O2’s strategy is to be customer led, mobile first. This is only possible when our workforce is truly reflective of the diversity of our customers.

We’re achieving this through a number of initiatives. Initiatives that are spearheaded by our gender balanced executive leadership team.

Our apprentice and graduate programmes are great examples of how we foster that diversity. Over 50% of applicants are female and a high proportion come from BAME backgrounds. By attracting such a range of candidates, we can be confident that we’re building a diverse future workforce.

We also run a successful career returners programme. It gives women, or men, who have had a career break, the platform and confidence to re-enter the workplace. Over 80% of participants have gone on to take up longer term roles in the company.

This encapsulates our commitment and attitude to both diversity and inclusion. We focus on talent and skill, regardless of age or gender. This work has led us to be listed in the UK top 50 employee mobility index.

Ultimately, we want everyone to feel comfortable. To encourage inclusion across the organisation we use Workplace as a primary communication tool. Dedicated groups, for example BAME, Women’s and Proud at O2, are used as platforms from which to break the silence around some of these topics.

People at all levels of the organisation use these networks to share personal challenges and stories. By opening the dialogue around these issues, it unlocks the door to wider discussion and promotes inclusion across the business.

Championing diversity and inclusion is not something we’re doing on our own though. We work with other industry players like Vodafone and Ericsson to execute our ‘Step into STEM’ programme. Along with other female leaders I’m proud to deliver talks to young women studying STEM subjects sharing what I can to help them on their journey. We also offer mentorships to support their professional progression.

The success of a business depends on the work of a diverse and inclusive workforce with a wide range of skills. While some companies have made and are making incredible strides, it’s something we can’t afford to slow down on. We have a responsibility to remain focused on ensuring individuals from all backgrounds have equal opportunity to progress.

I was therefore encouraged that this topic had a firm place on the agenda at such an important event for the industry.