How women are changing the face of leadership in TMT M&A

Women who do not feel ready for the challenge of a new role should throw themselves into a new experience. Even if they need to grow in order to fulfil specific tasks and objectives. That’s the advice from the president and group CEO of Tele2, Allison Kirkby, who says that women should dare to be fearless.

“Be curious and get out of your comfort zone, regularly,” she explained. “It’s a fantastic learning experience.”

Kirkby, who has worked in telecoms, media and technology (TMT) for almost nine years, is keen to tackle the barriers that stop women from progressing. Women should be encouraged to push forward with their own career development and reach for senior leadership positions.

“I mentor both women and men and coach them to practice authentic leadership and focus on inclusive teams,” she said. “The progression of women, which ultimately concerns meritocracy, has to be championed by both men and women.

“As long as we’re not making use of all the talent that’s out there, we’re not harnessing the diverse insight and brainpower companies will need to adequately reflect the priorities and needs of their customers and employees and the societies they operate.”

Lead together

According to Kirkby, who joined Tele2 as group CFO before quickly progressing to group CEO, great leadership is only possible when you have a team of engaged individuals, all highly energised in pursuit of the same ambition.

Yet, whilst TMT is a progressive sector, it’s not necessarily easy for women to progress. It depends on the culture and commitment of individual businesses and whether they see value in gender equality and diversity.

It’s an area of immense interest to Accenture. For example, it has exceeded its goal of ensuring that 40% of all new hires are women and it has a dedicated mentoring and development programme that pairs female leaders with Accenture Leadership mentors. 

In fact, the global firm strongly believes that gender equality underpins success in today’s digital world. Businesses should be bold and men and women should lead together. 

Bad image?

Cindy Varga, managing director of strategy and corporate development at Liberty Global, the international TV and broadband company, believes that more can be done to advance women through the ranks. At the recruitment stage.

“What I have started to do when we are hiring is to require women be found to interview,” she expanded. "This might sound overly simplistic, but quite often, when we are looking for analysts, post-MBA/consultant-level people, the recruiting firms only provide CVs from male candidates. I am not sure if TMT has a bad image and if women are put off or if it’s laziness on their part, but I do not believe that the talent isn’t out there. I just think it’s up to women to continue to encourage women to pick this industry and make sure people that are in the job of looking for talent, make sure they do a thorough job.

“Subconsciously, I think people are used to seeing men in senior roles and don’t question where the women are. The downside of this being a cosy industry, is that it is easier to choose from people you already know and that are already in the market. However, I do hope that as new generations of leaders take over and if we keep pushing, we will start to see change.”

Interesting figures

Recent research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report – Women in Business 2017 – found that women in leadership roles have hit 25% whilst Directory of Social Change’s researcher, Judith Turner, puts that figure at 22%. Statistics from Ofcom’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television state otherwise.

According to the UK’s communications regulator, whilst the main five broadcasters have more men in senior roles compared to women, the percentage of women is higher than other sectors. For example, Viacom has the highest proportion of women at senior management level (48%), followed by ITV (42%) and the BBC (39%).

In its research, Grant Thornton, the business adviser, also argued that men and women perceive risk and opportunity differently – and act differently too. Therefore, if given more opportunities to collaborate, opposing views and opinions could help businesses produce more effective risk strategies.

“Over time, as your leadership remit grows in scope, you realise you cannot do everything yourself,” Kirkby continued. “So, one of my biggest lessons learned, is that when you move into a new role, quickly identify the strengths and weaknesses in the team you inherit. Fix the weaknesses sooner, rather than later.”

Seek guidance

Kirkby values the work that Ericsson is doing to raise awareness in relation to unconscious bias – managers are put through a training programme and are evaluated by their team members on inclusiveness and equal opportunities. It’s an inspirational move.

Yet Varga believes that all employees should be an inspiration. Women should not be the only ones to champion the sisterhood.

“Personally, I have not had any female mentors of note – all of my line managers and CEOs I have worked with have been male. However, I don’t necessarily think this has held me back; it has just left me to find my own path. My mentors have come in many shapes and sizes and in my experience, having a flexible approach to receiving mentorship is critical.

“My approach has been to take whatever help I can get, whenever, from whomever. Many of my mentors probably didn’t even realise they were my mentors… but what they all had in common was their wisdom, and their willingness to take an interest in me and my development.”

Later this month, career development strategies for women and women in TMT leadership are just two of the topics that will be discussed at Women in TMT M&A 2018 (October 24, London), a dedicated business event – sponsored by Accenture – that is designed to highlight the increasing presence of women leading strategy, mergers and acquisitions, financing and investments in TMT.

Varga concluded: “My advice to women out there is keep trying, put yourself forward, seek help and guidance from men or women that can help you and believe in yourself.

“Depending on what you want to achieve in your career, and where you want to develop, chances are there are a lot of people out there that would be happy to help you.”

For more information about Women in TMT M&A including tickets please visit www.tmtfinance.com/women-in-tmt or contact enquiries@tmtfinance.com for speaker and sponsor opportunities.