Vodafone continues its work towards becoming the best employer for women through ground-breaking programmes, foundation work and even partnering with a blockbuster super-hero movie

Vodafone empowers real-life female superheroes

Vodafone empowers real-life female superheroes

Vodafone is recognised worldwide as a leading employer and often makes headlines for its aim to become the “best employer for women by 2025”. It’s an ambitious goal, but with 45% female representation on its board, the dream appears to be a realistic one.

Keen to learn more, Where Women Work caught up with the company's Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Karina Govindji, to discuss Vodafone's significant female-focused activity and support for International Women's Day (IWD).

Here's what Karina had to say about Vodafone's focus on women.

A really important milestone and ‘ReConnecting’ the workforce

Karina sees International Women’s Day as a “really important milestone for Vodafone”. She explains: “Each year, we celebrate a week of activities and events across the business to demonstrate our commitment to gender equality, including customers, colleagues, communities and our co-partners. We have used this day to launch significant global policies and programmes such as maternity, ReConnect and domestic violence and abuse, and we hope that we can act as a beacon employer to encourage others to follow with these approaches – and make a broader impact on society.”

The ReConnect programme that Karina refers to is part of Vodafone’s process of recruiting 1,000 talented women on career breaks into management roles.

Data reveals there are around 96 million skilled women aged 30-54 on career breaks worldwide, of whom 55 million have middle management experience – a huge pool of potential.

The programme is designed to attract talented women who have left the workplace for several years (in most cases to raise a family), and would like to return. It aims to recruit women in both management and frontline roles across the 26 countries where Vodafone operates and help them refresh their skills.

“This is one of the world’s largest recruitment programmes to connect women who have taken extended career breaks back into work. According to research we did with KPMG, there is a potential pool of 50 million women with management skills that are out of the work place and we know that women find it tough to get back. We are committed to hiring 1,000 ReConnects and are more than 25% of the way there,” says Karina.

A ground-breaking maternity leave policy

ReConnect complements other Vodafone global initiatives focused on encouraging women in the workplace, including its unique global maternity policy – which offers female employees a minimum of 16-weeks fully paid leave across 30 countries and full-time pay for a four-day week for the first six months after returning to work.

“Our ground-breaking maternity leave policy launched in 2015, making Vodafone the first company to have a global minimum standards maternity policy offering 16 weeks’ maternity pay and transition back where returnees can work for four days and be paid for five during the first six months,” says Karina.

“We believe our policy plays a part in attraction and retention – we have seen 10% more women joining Vodafone as we introduced these progressive policies and although it is early days, there has also been around a 5% reduction in women leaving.”

Connecting women in developing countries

Vodafone job search women

Another ground-breaking initiative is Vodafone’s #ConnectedSheCan commitment which aims to provide 50 million women in developing countries with phones and access to technology to help them start businesses or further their careers, as well as access healthcare.

Women in developing economies are on average 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men – a far wider gender gap than in the developed world.

Vodafone analysed the root cause of this gender gap, country by country, and has developed commercial programmes to address the economic and cultural barriers. Its plan is to bring mobile technology to an additional 50 million women by 2025.

Vodafone connects women via telecommmunications

Karina says: “Closing the mobile gender gap in emerging economies will give women greater opportunity to access the benefits of mobile. Through our #ConnectedSheCan programme we aim to connect an additional 50 million women living in emerging markets to mobile. To help us achieve this we are creating dedicated propositions, products and services to improve health and wellbeing, create financial inclusion and increase safety and security for unconnected women.”

So far, Vodafone has launched nine commercial propositions in its emerging markets and added 13 million additional women to its network. A truly impressive achievement.

One example of what the project has achieved so far is the ‘Mother and Baby’ SMS and mobile-site providing customers with a ‘nurse in my pocket’. This features free advice on pregnancy, neonatal and childcare. Independent assessment shows over 95% of its users have taken positive actions to improve their child’s health.

Vodafone women

Another example is ‘Sakhi’. Safety is a key concern for women in India – every 93 seconds a crime against a woman is reported. However, ‘Sakhi’ helps female customers to feel safer and avoid potential harassment, giving them the confidence to live life without fear. It offers emergency balance, location alerts and private number recharge. More than 8 million women in India have already activated Sakhi on their mobiles.

Empowering female super-heroes

A very different but equally exciting project, designed especially for International Women’s Day 2019, was Vodafone being approached to collaborate ahead of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel worldwide movie release.

Karina explains how the project came about: “As a result of Vodafone’s #ConnectedSheCan campaign in 2018, we had young kids asking questions about gender equality and a young girl saying: Why are almost all the superheroes men? As a result, Disney reached out to Vodafone to support a contemporary female-lead superhero film released in cinemas globally, on IWD.”

Vodafone created a digital campaign to support the movie launch across its markets. The collaboration features a series of short films using scenes from the movie, starring Brie Larson and Samuel L Jackson.

At the end of the content, real-life heroes are featured who are being supported by Vodafone. They include a mother from Egypt who learned to read through a mobile-based literacy programme; a woman in Tanzania who set up her own business using M-Pesa mobile money; and a student in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who used the Vodafone Foundation’s Instant Schools mobile learning programme to study for her diploma.

Karina elaborates: “Vodafone has used the partnership opportunity to link to all of the work we are doing with real-life female superheroes: those returning to work, learning how to code, and simply fighting to get connected. A total of 19 Vodafone markets activated this campaign on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

Becoming the “world’s best employer for women”

With Vodafone aiming to be the “best employer for women” by 2025, Where Women Work also asked Karina how far into this journey the company is and how it is working to make the goal a reality.

Karina says: “We are making strong progress towards this ambition – with 45% women representation on our Board, nearly 30% at our Group ExCo, 40% women in our workforce and achieving over 30% female representation in management and leadership roles more than a year ahead of target.

“We believe our business has strong representation of women at all levels. In addition, we have announced bold policies to ensure that women are supported in the workplace, including maternity, returners and our more recent domestic violence and abuse policy. We are winning awards across our markets for ‘Best Employer of Women’ in the countries we operate in and this puts us in a strong position to make our ambition a reality.”

Life as a woman with Vodafone

As a woman working with Vodafone herself, there are many things Karina loves about life with the company.

“I love that I have the freedom and empowerment to make substantial and positive change across the company with more than 100,000 employees. I believe in Vodafone’s purpose to connect for a better future and love that I can play a significant role in delivering this. I also value the flexibility that I have, which enables me to do a great job and be with my family,” she says.

Focusing on diversity and inclusion, Karina works on a daily basis to create a global agenda that can be delivered locally across 26 countries, to support the creation of an inclusive culture through key policies and programmes.

Karina is always ready for a challenge: “Challenges continue to be that our ambition is always bigger than our resources, so prioritising what can get done is important. We rely heavily on the support of passionate employees who step forward outside of their day job to help drive our agenda and plans. I enjoy that there is always the opportunity to do more and go further – the job is never done.”

Every woman has her own qualities to offer Vodafone

For women looking to apply for jobs with Vodafone, Karina advises that they simply look to “bring the best of themselves” to the table.

She adds: “At Vodafone, we keep our customers at the heart of everything we do, so demonstrating a passion for customer experience and excitement for our products is critical. Digital transformation is in full swing in our organisation, so we love to work with people who are innovative, energetic and throw themselves into new experiences and technology.”

Vodafone employees set high expectations for themselves and others around them, so Karina enjoys hearing from people who set their standards high and are always curious to learn more.

“All of this is underpinned by the power of collaboration, and empowering others to create value for Vodafone as a whole is really important,” she says.

Karina describes Vodafone’s work culture as fast-paced, friendly, empowering, ambitious and performance orientated. The best advice she says she has ever been given is to be herself.

She concludes: “I have joined organisations and industries where it felt like there were cultural norms that were different to my personal approach and style, and I have worked hard to continue to be authentic to my true self and to thrive within these environments.”

Join Karina at this progressive company

With such extensive commitment and focus on supporting women's advancement, Vodafone is a top employer where women can progress a very rewarding career with impact.

Find out more about the opportunities available with this prime employer today.


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