As featured in Capacity Magazine’s August/September 2020 issue.
As a female executive for a growing technology company, I’ve given a lot of thought to the role that gender diversity plays in the workplace. In 2016, a report by Morgan Stanley discussed the advantages of gender diversity and discovered that companies with a more gender diverse team had a higher return on equity (ROE) than other publicly traded companies. To me it was no surprise that gender diversity would be a factor when considering what companies to invest in because an inclusive workplace that looks to cultivate talent tends to be one that fosters the best outcomes.
Females historically have tended to be underrepresented in telecommunications and technology. Unraveling why that is may best be left to someone with a sociology degree, but one thing we can all agree on is that women who have an interest in this field should have every opportunity to succeed and lead, not just for their own benefit but for the value they can bring to our industry. I’ve had the privilege of working with some great women and men in the industry who have supported and mentored me throughout my career. When I see a lack of gender diversity in the workplace my concern is not just for those who may be missing out, but for the organization as a whole.
As the Chief Marketing Officer, I know that FirstLight has worked hard to promote and recruit female talent at all levels of our company. But there is always more that we can do to continue to build on this progress. There are four areas that I focus on to help work toward the goal of an equal opportunity, gender diverse workplace:
1) Recruiting Top Talent – I’m fortunate to work alongside some amazing women at FirstLight, including our Chief Legal Officer & Head of Human Resources Jill Sandford. Jill and her team focus on recruiting the best talent for the organization, and gender diversity plays a role in that process. Ensuring that women are granted an equal opportunity to contribute to the organization’s success has a cascading effect that not just helps individual women become more successful, but truly draws top talent to our company so that we can achieve our goals in the long run.
2) Flexible Work – Do women choose a certain career or path because they are uniquely interested in it, or because they need flexibility to support their personal and family life? If it is the latter, why not remove the barriers by providing flexible working conditions that support employees enabling us to capture the value of that employee’s work and contribution? At FirstLight, flexibility and work-life balance are some of the things that our employees cite as helping to make FirstLight a great place to work. Most telecommunication and technology companies, including FirstLight, provide communication and collaboration technologies and services that enable the kind of flexible work-life balance that many people need to be successful. When we remove the barriers to success in our industry, we open the possibility of positions of growth and leadership for all employees.
3) Leadership and Mentoring – As a female business leader, I look for opportunities to mentor women who are coming up the ranks. Changing the culture inside an organization usually begins with the efforts of just a handful of people. Slowly, the culture in our industry, and the broader world, has shifted and inclusiveness has begun to become a permanent part of the workplace. I’m fortunate to work for an organization that has an active ESG program, an outstanding culture and a leadership team that has always embodied these principles. Helping to empower women in the telecom and technology field will ensure that we continue to see gains in diversity for years to come.
4) Supporting STEM Initiatives – Keeping an eye on the long game and working to make these shifts generational, I feel strongly that leading companies in telecom should put some effort and time into supporting programs that help young women explore their options. FirstLight has sponsored and participated in events that help young women develop an interest in science and technology. When fostered at an early age, girls can begin to imagine the possibilities of a career where they lead and participate in the next evolution of our digital world. At FirstLight, we actively support STEM initiatives in the communities in which we serve.
I’m an optimist when it comes to gender diversity in technology related industries. I see growing evidence that women are seeking opportunities and contributing to our industry in big ways. We know we get the best outcomes when we foster an inclusive workplace that provides opportunities for everyone. What is most promising to me is that we are seeing a shift in participation of women in STEM fields. As we bring more people of talent into our industry the possibility of reaching those distant horizons that we can only just glimpse today can accelerate when we have inclusion and participation by all.
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Maura Mahoney is the Chief Marketing Officer at FirstLight, Fiber Inc. a leading provider of fiber-optic connectivity, data center, cloud & managed technology services. She has held numerous senior leadership positions in the telecommunications industry over the past 20 years and is a current member of the Alliance of Channel Women.