Vodafone makes call for tech sector to increase diversity and gender equality

Mobile phone giant Vodafone is calling on technology leaders to “act now” and join it in making a pledge to increase diversity and gender equality in the sector.

Its initiative, called #ChangeTheFace, already has support from fellow mobile phone firms Nokia and Ericsson, as it looks to address inequality among IT companies and encourage more women to work in the sector.

It comes as results of a survey commissioned by the firm revealed only 13% of women in the UK think a job in technology is suitable for them.

The poll of 8,000 people worldwide, including 1,000 in the UK, also found if asked to describe technology as a person, the majority would say “young, white, middle class and male”.

Vodafone has committed to a target for 45% of senior leadership positions to be held by women by 2030, having already reached its previous aim of 30% ahead of its 2020 goal.

The group – which already has a 50/50 gender-balanced UK board – also wants to become the best employer for women by 2025 and has a global aim to hire 1,000 female returners back into the workplace through its ReConnect programme by the end of this year.

Nick Read, chief executive of Vodafone Group, said: “#ChangeTheFace is Vodafone’s commitment to improving our diversity and inclusion at Vodafone.

“We are urging the technology industry to act now so we build a digital future that reflects society and works for everyone.”

As part of the initiative – which comes ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8 – Vodafone will hold an industry-wide awards ceremony, #ChangeTheFace Awards, starting next year to recognise champions of inclusion.

It is also updating its Future Jobs Finder online tool to help match people with digital jobs, which aims to address the declining numbers of women entering tech roles.

And Vodafone is extending its diversity pledge to its supply chain, putting in place diversity criteria to influence procurement decisions.

This will mean diversity will sit alongside other standard criteria, such as safety, value, delivery and technology when the firm invites suppliers to tender for business.

The group added it has joined WEConnect International’s global network to connect with more women-owned businesses worldwide.

Its survey on diversity also found 29% of people in the UK feel alienated by modern technology advertising, with women less likely than men to think that tech ads are aimed at them.

Nick Jeffrey, Vodafone’s UK boss, said: “By reducing stereotypes and encouraging everyone to think about the different faces of our organisations, we can really start to make progress.”