By Serpil Timuray, Vodafone CEO European Cluster
In March 2020, just as the global pandemic was starting, Vodafone launched a new initiative called #ChangeTheFace, calling on technology leaders to increase diversity and equality in the technology industry.
Our initial goal was to encourage people to make personal and corporate pledges, and to demonstrate the strength of that support. In alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 10, we received more than 300 pledges.
In the following months, I was contacted by people inspired by #ChangeTheFace and it was clear that the issues – and the opportunities to face them together – had struck a chord.
We took the opportunity to start hosting digital conversations and workshops with a growing network of like-minded leaders from global technology companies and NGOs. We began with a simple premise - we are all doing a lot to accelerate diversity and inclusion in our own organisations, but what if we came together? Could we accelerate our initiatives collectively?
This culminated last week in the announcement of the #ChangeTheFace Alliance formed by Deloitte, Digital Boost, Ericsson, Facebook, Founders4Schools, Girl Effect, IBM, Nokia, PwC, Samsung, UN Women and Vodafone.
This is a one-of-a-kind commitment to do something together, share best practise with the wider tech industry on a new portal, and explore opportunities to collectively accelerate change. This is underpinned by our guiding principles – what we aim to achieve going forward and likely areas for collaboration in the future.
On Tuesday 21 September, we officially unveiled the #ChangeTheFace Alliance with an international virtual event at Goals House in New York during the UN General Assembly.
I was joined by partners from several Alliance member organisations, including Ericsson, Deloitte, UN Women and PwC, for a panel discussion hosted by Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient.
Whilst we are all at our own point on this important journey, we need to work together to make change happen faster and I was inspired to see the insights and learn about some of the activities our Alliance members are driving.
Jolyon Barker, Global Managing Principal of Clients & Industries at Deloitte explained that although it’s clear the technology sector has a diversity problem, it’s positive that it can be acknowledged and then addressed. Solving it will unleash talent, leading to better products and services. Deloitte’s ambition is to improve outcomes for 100 million people around the world by 2030, including impressive projects to support 10 million girls and women in India with education and skills development, and coding skills projects for girls in Africa, the US and UK.
Brenda Trenowden, representing both PwC and as Global Chair of the 30% Club, spoke about the power of the collective to address all aspects of Inclusion and Diversity, defining it not as a problem to solve, but as a huge untapped opportunity. A recent example is Microsoft, who have ensured that people with impairments who use their accessibility products are directly involved in their design.
Arun Bansal, President of Europe & Latin America for Ericsson noted that it’s unacceptable that half of humanity doesn’t have internet access, and only 1 in 3 schoolchildren are connected – an issue that became more acute during the pandemic. Ericsson’s mission is to “connect the unconnected”, but to access education, issues of affordability, accessibility, and the complexity of technology itself. Leaders have hidden behind a narrative of “there is no pipeline” – so we need to create it. Ericsson has been working with UNICEF to provide affordable education for pupils in nearly 1,000 schools, alongside more informed advice about education choices.
The final panellist, Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director at UN Women, welcomed the launch of the ChangeTheFace Alliance. Anita noted that a multi-stakeholder, collaborative approach was vital for UN Women from the outset, and ChangeTheFace was founded with a similar approach to bring industry and organisations together.
Anita also raised her acute concerns about how the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, showing that the world is divided between those with digital access and those without. UN Women are seeing a particular issue with a decline in female labour force participation alongside the burden of unpaid care work falling disproportionately on women.
In the questions from virtual attendees, I confirmed that the Alliance is open to any organisation who wants to participate and explained that the Alliance’s goal is to deliver a truly inclusive technology sector. To deliver this, it was clear we needed a set of shared principles as common ground for our collaboration, which we have set out together.
I concluded by emphasising the urgency of the mission – we cannot afford to make slow progress or leave anyone behind. The ChangeTheFace Alliance brings together an extraordinary group of people from companies and NGOs who are passionate, committed and have enormous experience.
This is the beginning for the Alliance, but I hope to report on our progress in the coming months and years.
For further information about #ChangeTheFace, or to get involved, please visit: www.change-the-face.com
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