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TELUS Business

Gender gap: Driving inclusive leadership with partner Cisco

Tech Trends · Jul 11, 2019

TELUS is taking significant steps to bring awareness to the prevalent gender gap in the technology industry. On Wednesday, June 19, TELUS Business Solutions held a sold-out Women In Technologycustomer event at Brian Jessel BMW in Vancouver, BC to showcase the organization’s commitment to an inclusive workplace. 

It may be 2019, but unfortunately, the gender pay gap is real.

The event was the brainchild of TELUS sales executive Kayla Zimmermann and Brian Jessel BMW’s Marketing Manager, Diana Zoppa. “We came up with this idea at a women’s networking event,” said Zimmermann. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to gather together not only women in technology in male-dominated professions but also to learn leadership strategies and expand our networks.”

“When we were at that event, we saw that it was always the same faces, and for a car dealership — which is male-dominated — we thought we’d host an event here to bring a female face to the showroom,” added Zoppa. 

No easy solution

The stats on women in the workplace are alarming: in fact, women only earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. Even more startling, the typical college-educated male will see a pay increase of 77% between the ages of 25 and 45, yet the average college-educated woman will only see a 31% increase to her pay during this same period. 

Denise Mann, TELUS’s Senior Director of Sales, said that closing the gender gap isn’t a simple process, and the issue is highly complex.  “Where I believe the solution lies is when we stop segmenting ourselves and categorizing ourselves; then we truly get to a place where we are selecting the best candidates based on the right fit for the job,” she said. For Mann, it’s not a question of male versus female; it’s about being a human being who can contribute, add value to the business and the end customer, and drive those objectives most effectively in the role they’re seeking. 

When we stop having to have these events, then we know we’re there,” Mann said. “When you look at life, it will always be we have our differences. Over time things are changing.”

Mann also noted that embracing diversity and social capitalism is a huge part of TELUS’s core strategic values. “We want to elevate women in business and empower all people of all segments of socio-economic demographics to be empowered to follow their dreams,” she added.

Take it from the top 

These values are shared by Cisco, a key partner that is leading the way in closing the pay gap. Ioana Birleanu, Cisco’s Senior Director of Sales for Western Canada, said that the company is all about diversity in leadership. There, they’ve deployed tactical strategies like job descriptions with a disclaimer at the bottom. 

“We don’t care about your race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or if you have tattoos… don’t worry about it; we want you on our team,” she said. “It seems trivial, but the truth is when people read job descriptions, there’s something subconscious in that if you see an inviting message you attract more diverse candidates.” 

Birleanu explained that half of the staff in the CEOs office at Cisco is comprised of women. And to truly make headway in closing the pay gap, it starts at the top. “You need to have a diverse pool of candidates and then choose the best one,” she said. “We definitely walk the talk.” 

Diversity rules

Equally critical in solving the gender problem, according to Birleanu, is to embrace diversity overall. “We make better business decisions when we have a diverse team,” she said. “When you have more diverse people in the room, you can serve your customers, who are also diverse, much better. We’ve realized it gives us better business outcomes, and I see it happening in working with TELUS as well.”

The numbers don’t lie: one fascinating analysis found that women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 drove three times the returns as S&P 500 enterprises run predominantly by men

We’re not saying that the answer is as simple as hiring more women executives. What must happen, and what TELUS is fully behind, is to lead by example. Whether it’s through our commitment to making life easier for remote work and maintaining a positive work/life integration with Unified Communications services or by hiring a more diverse executive team, we are taking strides to improve the workplace for all.

“There is a mirroring exercise that happens when middle or lower executives see that the top level executives are hiring diversely,” said Birleanu. “We aren’t at a diverse moment yet, but we’re getting closer.”

Ultimately, it’s events like our recent forum at Brian Jessel BMW that serve to not only acknowledge the industry gender gap but keep people talking about it so positive change can be realized.

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Authored by:
Nicole Hylmar
Nicole Hylmar