Kirste Johnston, Sales Sector Head for Vodafone's Scotland and Northern Ireland Regional Business, shares how Vodafone supports women's careers and strives for a diverse and inclusive workplace

Kirste shares how Vodafone unlocks womens talents

Kirste shares how Vodafone unlocks women's talents

Kirste Johnston is a Sales Sector Head within Vodafone's Regional Business in Scotland and Northern Ireland. She shares her career story and offers insight into how Vodafone unleashes and unlocks the talent of women.

Growing up surrounded by female role models

Kirste grew up in a single parent family on a council estate in the small seaside town of Prestwick, on the west coast of Scotland. She was lucky to be raised by a family full of strong and independent woman who acted as her role models. Kirste is pleased that the world in which women work now is a very different place to when her mother had to work and bring up a family.

"Time has moved on significantly from the male and female inequalities of the seventies. There are many more opportunities for women in the workplace to soar, particularly within Vodafone," she explains.

However, Kirste understands that there is still work to do to make sure there is equality in senior level roles and director boards and that they reflect the diversity of society.

"I am proud to say that at Vodafone we have a strong focus on ensuring our business genuinely does reflect the diversity of our society, and that there is a strong active support network to achieve this," she says.

Finding like-minded, forward-thinking people at Vodafone

On leaving school at 17, Kirste applied for college to study Art and Design, as she had a passion for anything creative. She left home around the same time, and was soon hit by the harsh reality of low income and bills to pay.

So, Kirste decided to increase her earning potential by taking on two jobs: one was waitressing, the other self-employed selling advertising space for a media company.

"I quickly recognised I really enjoyed the world of sales, the buzz of landing that deal, and the reward of a commission payment hitting the bank account. Vodafone support developing our young workforce, and believe there is no wrong path to career success," she adds.

This led Kirste to the communications industry fairly quickly. For Kirste, it wasn’t hard to figure out the world was on the brink of a technological revolution, and this excited her and she wanted to be part of it. She started her communications career at the age of 19 and accepted a job in a mobile communications shop, owned by a small local reseller.

"The world of communications was very much male dominated at that time. My career progressed quickly as I thrived in a sales environment, leading me to managing my own store, and then managing a team of business to business field sales," she explains.

Before Vodafone, Kirste worked for a major competitor. However, when she had her children her work took a back seat, and she found it hard to balance family life with her career. She knew she was in the wrong organisation, as there was not a lot of support. Kirste wanted to work with more like-minded, and forward-thinking people, and she found that with Vodafone.

Kirste found the support she needed in Vodafone's ‘Re-Connect’ network, where Vodafone re-connects woman with its business, and makes sure the right help is in place for women to thrive.

Joining a truly innovative company that supports women

For Kirste, it was a breath of fresh air to join a truly innovative company with a genuine appetite for supporting women in business. In every other role she has had in every other technology business, she was the only woman in her team doing senior sales, strategy or a sales management role in Scotland.

"At Vodafone I now work in an environment where the balance is far better; where men and women collaborate and bring their varied skills together to ensure excellence and success not only for our business but for the individuals. An example of this is our ‘He for She’ Campaign, for which there can be miss-perceptions. Be clear this is not about promoting women in business purely for being a woman and balancing the numbers," explains Kirste.

"This is about having the support of our male colleagues and promoting positive opportunity and thinking about women, unlocking their talent and understanding the different challenges they face to men."

"The men in our business want their sisters, mothers, daughters, colleagues to have the same opportunities and earning potential as they do. This is what He for She is about. Ensuring the men and women in our business work together providing fairness of opportunity and earning potential," she adds.

"Every day within Vodafone I am in awe of the amazing woman leaders we have. They inspire and support me to be the best and can be, as do our male counterparts. It’s very refreshing culturally. We also have a number of Woman’s Groups within Vodafone."

Kirste pioneered Vodafone Scotland & NI’s ‘Lean In’ Group for women, a network which offers advice and support to women in the business across a range of topics such as women’s health and fitness, learning and developing their career. Through initiatives like the Mentor Programme or Re Connecting, Vodafone offers support across the organisation to help women recognise their potential. 

Coaching and supporting a female colleague at Vodafone 

In Kirste's previous Vodafone role as Sector Head for the Mid Market Sales Team, her team were 1:1 male to female ratio. Her top performer was coincidentally a woman - she won sales person of the year for the whole of their region.

"I had spent a year helping her recognise her true potential through performance coaching and a supportive approach. The talented women in our business bring a positive dynamic to what we do, as do the talented men," says Kirste.

"There is a genuine mutual respect within the men and women in our business. It’s not about our gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background, it’s about the work ethic, skills and talent of each individual. I have been inspired by our business to help support and promote women in our workplace."

Kirste nominated her top performer, for the Women in Sales Awards Europe. For Kirste, this was a fantastic opportunity to raise her profile not only within Vodafone but also across the Industry Europe wide, and Kirste was delighted when she was nominated as a finalist.  

Doing good in society with Vodafone's support 

The ethical values of Vodafone were another big attraction for Kirste as a woman.

"I find this is a common attraction to many women and men in our business. An example of this is that our people can volunteer three working days a year with a charity of their choice. I volunteer with a wide range of charities, and also sit of the Committee of Ayrshire Business Women," she explains. 

"It’s so rewarding being able to genuinely do some good in society and having the support of your employer to do so. As a woman, it’s also important to me personally that Vodafone care as a corporate organisation and contribute back into society."

Whilst being with Vodafone, Kirste has also benefited from widening her professional network, sharing best practice, and engaging with some empowering woman both internally and externally. As a member of the Scottish Business Woman’s Association and also Ayrshire Business Woman Network, Kirste finds it fantastic to watch so many women evolve and succeed in business. 

"I have worked my way up into the regional senior leadership within Scotland and Northern Ireland, and sit on the local Regional Board for Vodafone, and I love that Vodafone actively support woman; recognising that in as much as we are different to men, we have so much value to bring to business," says Kirste.

"I can’t profess enough that Vodafone ultimately unlock and unleash the talent of women. I encourage more woman to grasp the opportunity to work in such a fantastic organisation and join the Vodafone team!"

Work for an employer that supports women's careers

Vodafone offers exciting opportunities to talented women around the world, from apprentices through to experienced hires. Search and apply for your next role with Vodafone today and see where your career will take you.


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