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Mar 08 2019

Equality, integrity, technology: International Women’s Day 2019

At Nokia, we create the technology to connect the world.

That has put us in a privileged position. Over the past few decades in particular, we have seen massive change up close – changes in how people work, how they socialize, how they live.

We have helped to lead much of that change. And we have done it while sticking to the highest ethical standards. Drawing on our 150-year-old Finnish roots to create trusted technology with a social purpose.

Today, on International Women’s Day (IWD), we feel especially proud of those roots.

Finnish women were the first in the world to have full suffrage – not only the right to vote but the right to stand for election. And Finland remains a world leader on gender equality and women’s rights.

But there is more to do, both here and elsewhere.

The world must still become more inclusive and more equitable.

Technology can help that happen. In fact it already has.

The latest data shows that 1.2 billion people use their cellphones to access education for themselves or for their children. Much of this is down to the 750,000+ education-related apps available on smartphones, enabled by the powerful networks that connect people to information.  And crucially, women are more likely than men to use mobile technology for this purpose.

Another issue is the burden of caregiving. Up to 70% of caregivers worldwide are women. Taking time off to raise a child can affect a woman’s career, which feeds the gender pay gap.

Digital connectivity can help here. Reliable teleconferencing and videoconferencing services make workplaces far more flexible. Companies can use online tools to manage a more widely-spread workforce, helping women to return to work as soon as they wish.

Or if women want to start their own businesses, connectivity can help with that too. Cloud services have significantly lowered barriers to entry in a huge range of sectors, from manufacturing to consultancy. Nokia itself uses cloud products to enable remote working for those who need it. Shared workspaces, online freelancer communities, peer-to-peer lending… connectivity enables all these tools and more.

And if all this is possible using only 3G and 4G, imagine what 5G might bring. A widespread, hyper-quick network will make society more productive, flexible and inclusive than ever before.

So how do we take that next step and, as the theme for this year’s IWD puts it, ‘balance for better’?

The first thing is to note that the gender gap is a complex collection of problems. Closing it requires a range of solutions, locally, nationally and globally.

Governments can start with their educational policies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring digitization far beyond traditional STEM jobs. We need to make sure that women and girls have the skills they need to thrive in this new future. A renewed focus on apprenticeships and public-private cooperation in schools could help.

Governments can also ensure that women and girls enjoy the benefit of digitization by facilitating investment in digital infrastructure, such as 5G networks, and by ensuring equal access to the internet for all of its citizens.

Businesses, too, need to step up. At Nokia we know that a diverse workforce makes innovation, performance, and execution easier.

We are making progress. Bloomberg included Nokia in their 2019 Gender-Equality Index for our transparency and commitment to women's equality.

But I want to be clear that Nokia still needs to do better. Our gender balance needs work – currently women represent only 22% of our employees. And we can still do more to close the comparable pay gap too. The Group Leadership Team and I are taking action to rectify these situations.

We launched the C-Suite and Inspiring Leaders programs – career development schemes that identify our most talented female employees and give them access to sponsorship, mentoring, and executive coaching. Among the alumni, 35% have already moved on to higher level positions.

We established the Gender Balance Steering Board to increase awareness of gender issues across the company. So far over 3,000 employees have been trained on gender balance best practice, and we now require inclusive candidate pools to be interviewed for every open position.

We also support StrongHer, a grassroots movement that promotes gender balance within Nokia and beyond. Started by six employees in 2011, today StrongHer now has over 3,000 members in more than 70 countries.

Alongside this are our many programs to strengthen the pipeline of women leaders in technology.

These include running STEM workshops in France, Germany and the U.S. for almost 1,500 girls aged 11-15, providing training and internships for female students in China, and contributing to Plan International’s Digital Gender Divide project in Uganda and Ethiopia.

I am proud of all these projects. I hope that in addition to success on their own terms, they also inspire other employers, big and small, to do their bit to close the gender gap.

Individuals too. Why leave it to governments and businesses? Whoever you are, wherever you live, ask yourself how you can make the world a better, more equal place.

International Women’s Day is an annual reminder to do that. But it shouldn’t end there. 

We should always bear in mind women’s unique contribution to the world.

We should always make the most of the many technological tools we have for social change.

And we should always ‘balance for better’.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #5G #teamnokia #diversity #BalanceforBetter #IWD2019

About Rajeev Suri

Rajeev has transformed Nokia into a leading technology company for a world connected by 5G and shaped by increasing digitalization and automation. Under his leadership, Nokia has acquired Alcatel Lucent, successfully expanded into enterprise vertical markets, created a standalone software business, and engineered the return of the Nokia brand to mobile phones. Rajeev is a UN Broadband Commissioner and a steward at the Digital Economy and Society systems initiative at the World Economic Forum.

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