ITU and UNITAR co-organized the first Women’s Leadership Workshop to women delegates accredited to the Radiocommunication Assembly and World Radiocommunications Conference. Organized under the theme of ‘Empowering Women in Radiocommunications Negotiations’, this professional training in leadership and negotiations skills gathered more than 30 women from 20 countries. The workshop gave all participants a unique opportunity to share ideas and tips on how to overcome career challenges, develop their own leadership style, and build on their personal strengths. Dr Veena Rawat, Senior Spectrum Advisor at Government and Regulatory Affairs (GSMA) and a former Chair of the World Radicommunication Conference, and Doreen Bogdan, Chief of ITU’s Strategic Planning and Membership Department, share their thoughts on the event and possible future outcomes.
My life as a female champion
I started my professional career in telecommunications in the private sector and later at Industry Canada, managing the Radio Spectrum Engineering Program for a number of years, dealing with spectrum and orbit resources for all radio communication services including navigation services and search and rescue by satellite. This required negotiating on the international stage, developing bilateral and multilateral agreements with countries around the world.
As such, the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) is of a crucial importance for making any decisions at the international level. WRC ‘s provide opportunity for global and/or regional harmonization of spectrum that there is international accord on global spectrum management – a necessary requirement to achieve benefits of economies of scale. When Chairing WRC 2003, a WRC with very complex and long agenda, I was able to achieve the results for telecom industry which represented billions of dollars of investment.
While I was the first female ever to chair a WRC, there was very limited participation from women in national delegations. Over the years we have seen slow but positive progress in the number of female delegates attending ITU conferences, assemblies and meetings, and this year is no exception. At WRC-15 only 17.5 per cent of delegates were women, a slight increase compared to the 15.9 per cent at WRC-12. Though this is a positive upward trend, if progress continues at this rate, it will be nearly 100 years before we have an equal number of male and female delegates at WRC which is a gloomy picture for the conference.
I was a panelist at the first workshop for female delegates co-organized by UNITAR and ITU just ahead of the opening of the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in Geneva. Based on my 35 years of experience, the advice that I would give to all women who are interested in a career in telecommunications is to study science and technology, learn as much about the field as possible and then specialize in one area – radiocommunications for example. The path is not easy, but you always start bottom up, first at the national level, and eventually you will have the opportunity to work at the international level, taking on larger leadership roles as time goes on.
Encouraging gender equality at ITU
ITU’s Membership is committed to bringing more women to the negotiating table. Events like the ITU and UNITAR workshop for women delegates at WRC-15 are the perfect occasion to give all female participants a unique opportunity to meet role models, share their ideas and tips on how to overcome career challenges, develop their own leadership style, and build on their personal strengths. The popularity and success of the event could see women’s leadership skills sessions become a regular fixture at other ITU events, including ITU Council 2016.
Conferences and meetings, where members collaborate, take decisions and negotiate agreements, are an important part of ITU’s work. Each meeting has a well-defined purpose and outcome, and plays a role in supporting ITU’s mission. Resolution 70 (Minneapolis, 1998), formalized by ITU Membership in 1998, noted the need to bring more women to the negotiating table to help promote the work of the organization and strengthen the mandate of the Union, highlighting that the equal participation of women and men in policy and decision-making, together with equal access to communication services, benefits society as a whole.
The Union’s commitment to gender equality is underpinned by the ITU Gender Equality and Mainstreaming Policy (GEM) which was launched in 2013 to foster this cooperative spirit in all negotiation, decision-making and planning processes. This policy presents a shared vision for integrating a gender perspective throughout the Union and provides a tool to ensure that gender equality remains a core consideration in ITU’s strategic plans, activities and programmes.
ITU is working towards closing the gender digital divide through several initiatives, including International Girls in ICT Day and the joint ITU-UN Women GEM-Tech Awards. Internally, ITU recognizes that gender equality helps foster a more creative and effective organization, fostering increased productivity and innovation. ITU Secretary General, Mr Houlin Zhao also recently joined the Geneva Gender Champions Initiative and committed the Union to undertaking actions to advance gender equality in ITU conferences and meetings. These include: supporting and promoting the career advancement of female colleagues and taking the initiative on gender issues; approving clearly defined and measurable gender targets for staffing, delegation composition and procurement and prioritizing attending, participating in; and reporting back to colleagues on gender related events.
Dr. Veena Rawat is currently working as Senior Spectrum Advisor at Government and Regulatory Affairs (GSMA) in Canada. She is internationally known for her knowledge and expertise in spectrum management, regulatory matters and ICT technologies. She has chaired over 100 ITU and Citel Committees, and was the first female ever to chair ITU’s highest level meeting in 2003, the World Radiocommunication Conference, for which ITU awarded her a gold medal.
Mrs. Doreen Bogdan-Martin was appointed the Chief of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department in the General Secretariat as from 1 January 2008. She was previously the Head of the ITU/BDT Regulatory and Market Environment Division and was responsible for the programmes on Regulatory Reform and Economics and Finance. Doreen tweets at @DoreenBogdan and leads the work of the UN Broadband Commission’s Secretariat.