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International Women’s Day 2023: Women in Telecoms Networking Group – Q&A with Katie Baron

Women in tech isn’t something to celebrate and encourage for just one day – with that in mind, Gamma have been hard at work on a very special podcast around this theme as well as supporting the creation of a networking group for women. We took some time to speak with one of the participants in the podcast, Katie Baron (Senior Business Development Executive), about the networking group, how it came to be, what the benefits are and what’s in store down the line.

What was the driving force behind your decision to set up the networking group?

I was having my monthly 1-2-1 with my Channel Director Mike Mills, and I brought up how I’d like to have a female mentor to help with my personal and professional development, give me more insight into the industry, and share different experiences and perspectives. As a woman I have always been incredibly well supported at Gamma – however the industry in general is still male dominated. So, I thought it would be beneficial to attempt to create some kind of community for women in similar positions to me who either want an ally, support, new friends, or inspiration from other women in the industry. We then discussed Telecoms networking groups and what was available in the UK, and quickly realised options were extremely limited! Gamma is part of the Comms Council UK, so I decided to reach out to Tracey Wright, MD of Magrathea, who is on the board for the CCUK to pitch the idea. She loved it and put it forward for consideration. The rest of the board agreed it was definitely worthwhile, so the group was created! I’m the chair, so it’s my responsibility to set the agenda with suitable topics. We usually have a spotlight for the first section, which I will select based on the agenda. Our spotlight will then have 10 minutes to discuss their industry experience. Then we offer the opportunity for a few questions and the floor is open for everyone to take part.

What sorts of benefits does membership of the group provide?

At the moment we meet once a quarter via Teams, with the intention to have an in-person event in summer. We also have LinkedIn and WhatsApp groups. If there are any industry events coming up that we’re attending, we can then share that in the groups and organise meet ups if possible! It means we can have a familiar face at big events which is always nice.

What challenges have members described while attending the group?

We have discussed all sorts so far! Gender bias, career guidance in schools and awareness of the Telecoms industry, not just in sales but in all different roles (operations, engineering, etc.), lack of women in leadership positions and how this can be improved, and even issues like confidence and personal development. It can be quite intimidating being the only woman in a meeting room full of men, and sometimes it’s just nice to be able to have a conversation with another female about a subject that you might not necessarily feel comfortable discussing with a man (and vice versa, I’m sure!). What’s nice to hear is that things are improving over the years with more women entering the industry, but we want to raise awareness and offer support too. The sessions aren’t just about challenges either, we celebrate success and we talk about our positive experiences with men in the industry. It’s an empowering but safe space.

How did the podcast idea come about – was it an outgrowth of the group?

I was chatting to Paul Aitkenhead, Head of Brand, PR and Comms at Gamma, about the group, and he invited me to take part! I asked Tracey as our story started together, so it happened really naturally.

Is there anything more businesses can do to advocate for women in the tech sector?

I think it’s just about not being afraid to be vocal and raising awareness of these kinds of networking groups in a positive way, that isn’t detrimental to men. I think there’s always a taboo with this subject as we definitely don’t want to go too far the other way. I am incredibly grateful for all of the men who have supported me in my career so far! My intention is just to provide an empowering and supportive platform for women to meet each other in a setting that probably was never possible before. I’m hoping we’ll see more faces at other groups once confidence has grown! So any proactive support from businesses to raise awareness is always welcomed and I would say it makes them more attractive as a workplace.

Has Gamma been supportive in your venture with the networking group and podcast?

Absolutely! The ventures have been massively encouraged and I’ve actually got to know a lot of new people in the business who I haven’t met before which is lovely. I’m very lucky that Gamma give me the flexibility to do things like this that aren’t directly within my job spec, and it has definitely helped with my own personal growth and development too.

What’s the future for this advocacy within Gamma – what’s next for you?

I’m just really enjoying getting to know the new contacts I’ve made and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve never chaired anything before, and I feel really proud that the group has become what it is. We now have over 50 members! I love the fact that its raising awareness as that’s exactly what I wanted it to do, and I think it’s important for everyone to have that sense of community that wasn’t necessarily there before. I’ll be practicing my radio voice as I’ll hopefully be doing another podcast, and will be starting planning for our summer in-person event too, so we can all meet in real life!