Female empowerment is one of Vodacom’s most important goals, and one of the most effective ways to achieve this is to bring women from all levels of the organisation together to tackle the challenges that woman often face in the workplace.
Vodacom is committed to promoting diversity in the workplace. Currently, 43% of Vodacom’s workforce is female. In the last year, promotions of female employees rose by 9%, and 17% of the executive workforce is female. Vodacom’s working policies also allow women more flexibility around maternity leave and returning to work.
The Women’s Network Forum is made up of 18 women dedicated to championing the gender equality agenda. This employee representative body offers a platform where women can mobilise, connect, network and be empowered to be at their best. The Forum launched on 8 August at a celebratory Women's Day event. We chatted to a few of the committee members about their plans.
‘Our mandate,’ says chairperson Nwabisa Qwanyashe CA(SA), ‘is to empower our female colleagues, create networking and mentoring opportunities so that women can connect across departments and share knowledge.’ Her day job is Specialist: EBU Commercial Management.
‘We’re focussing on making sure that the WNF is available and accessible,’ says Precious Nkula, one of the Forum’s deputy chairs. ‘We will also be empowering women through workshops and dialogues on how to overcome workplace challenges, and how to be ready when opportunities to advance to the next level present themselves.’
The Forum’s efforts are a reflection of Vodacom’s commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, and this is reflected in the commitment of their two sponsors in Vodacom's leadership: Lynda Pefile, Managing Executive: Talent Management and Nadya Bhettay, Chief Office: Group Strategy, New Business and Business Development. ‘They are so accessible and are very committed to the Forum’s agenda,’ says Nwabisa.
Vodacom’s female development programmes benefit women across the organisation, including several of the committee members. ‘I was fortunate enough to be part of a leadership programme called Ascend that allowed me to network, test my management skills and understand myself as a leader,’ says committee member Jenny Pather, who is today Senior Manager, Enterprise Technology. ‘I’ve been with Vodacom for seven years, and have seen first-hand the amazing work Vodacom has done to promote women within the tech field. My personal goal is to push that even further with the WNF.’
As a woman in the traditionally male-dominated STEM field, Jenny has some advice for other women and girls wanting to follow in her footsteps. ‘When problems are very technical, women sometimes tend to sit back. I really want to encourage younger developers to step up, and be mentored into a more senior role.’
Precious also benefited from a mentorship for leaders programme offered in partnership with the Wits Business School. ‘Personally, I gained so much knowledge and so many relevant skills. I feel like at Vodacom I am always learning and growing.’
Mentorship is key
Promoting mentorship is one of the key goals of the WNF. ‘Having a mentor has really helped me,’ says Nwabisa. ‘I was approached by a member of Vodacom’s executive, who offered to help in whatever way she could. It’s a reflection of the kind of leadership we have here.’
Follow in their footsteps
Precious has had a long and fruitful journey with Vodacom. ‘I’ve been with Vodacom for 15 years,’ she says. ‘That alone tells you it’s a great company! I would definitely recommend Vodacom as an employer, especially for women in the tech space. There are so many opportunities out there to move and grow, and so many programmes aimed at helping women reach their full potential.
Jenny wholeheartedly agrees. ‘Vodacom is an innovative company, and it’s an exciting place to be, especially for young women who love tech. People often don’t understand that we do many things outside of the mobile field. My fields are Internet of Things and Enterprise Mobility and we do some incredibly funky stuff like building Augmented Reality and IoT solutions for real-world problems.
‘Aside from the exciting work, we’re very fortunate that Vodacom really does take care of its employees, from great benefits to wellness initiatives.’
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