Women in Tech series: Sade Oladugbewo


Passionate about seeing more women in senior roles, Sade has founded two support groups within Vodafone to help colleagues grow. For International Women’s Day, she tells us her story, from challenges at college to taking a step back when having children.

Sade Oladugbewo admits she wasn’t always interested in a career in technology. “What drew me to a career in tech was realising I did not have the stomach for seeing blood for a career in medicine,” she laughs, before telling us about her current role. 

As a Senior Programme Management Office Manager at Vodafone, Sade spends her days working with IT, digital and product specialists, driving their visions forward and helping them progress in their careers. 

“It’s a brilliant role, very rewarding,” says Sade. “There’s so many layers to being in technology. I've been very fortunate to be in an industry that I’m constantly enjoying.” 

“In my career I have been one of very few women, but I've never really felt that has stopped me”

Entering the workplace as a graduate, there were more men than women in Sade’s team but she points out, “there was a good cohort of women that were also engineers at that time, so I wasn’t the only one. And although I’ve been one of few women throughout my career, I've never really felt that has stopped me from growing.” 

She goes on to say, “I don’t really remember feeling like a minority as a woman in tech. Instead, I was focused on the ground-breaking technologies I was working on.”  

However, when we ask Sade about choosing to do BTEC qualification at college, she explains how she was questioned by the head of the department and encouraged to apply for the lower-level course despite being qualified for the higher course. 

She recalls how her older sister marched her back into the college, with baby siblings in tow, to demand the teacher put her on the higher-level course. He did so reluctantly, and Sade excelled.  

Yet when it came to university, she came up against the same criticism.  

“The same head asked me what I was going to study at university. When I said software engineering, he said, ‘oh, that's very hard. You're not going to be able to sustain that.’” 

Fortunately, Sade was not put off and knew she could do it. 

“It was real challenge,” Sade admits. “But I felt that it was something that would really push my abilities.” 

“I think the gender roles are creeping up, but they are not where they could be”

Having been part of the industry for more than 25 years, Sade has seen a lot of change in terms of diversity, but she still feels there is a way to go. 

“I think the gender roles are creeping up, but not where they could be. It's at the management level and it's in the leadership. We’re seeing still fewer women in those roles across the technology industry, and I think there are life roles that play into that,” Sade explains.  

“As women, we have to take maternity leave if we want children, that’s part of life and there's nothing wrong with it, but it is disruptive to our careers and when we come back to work, we can feel vulnerable which sometimes means a step back in our careers. I definitely did with my daughter, I took a step back as I just wanted stability so that I could enjoy being a parent and enjoy family life.” 

She goes on to say, “being at Vodafone has enabled me to do all of those things. Being there for my children, but also trying to sustain a career as well.” 

Sade puts some of that down to having strong female role models throughout her career. From her sister to her mentor, she explains how their belief in her really built her up. 

“It’s about recognising people's talent rather than just what they look like”

This is part of the reason she founded the Multicultural Inclusion Network and the Vodafone Black Professionals Network for Vodafone employees. 

“I felt it was important to create a network where people can just speak to others they relate to beyond their immediate team or department, and share knowledge, without being judged.” 

In her own experience, Sade tells us how her own confidence has grown, but also how she’s seen others gain confidence and self-belief.   

 “It’s about recognising people's talent rather than just what they look like,” says Sade. “Anybody who is qualified to do a job, should be recognised for doing the job well rather being judged for their gender, or ethnicity. If you are the best person for the role, you should get the job.” 

She adds, “I was born this way. I'm born female, born with an ethnicity. Should I be held at fault for that?” 

For Sade, it’s about making everyone in society feel seen and heard.  

“We've got some great senior leaders in the business who are really keen to drive ethnicity and equity for our employees. There's a long way to go for all of these things, but we've started the work and that is really important.”