Leading ladies

Just who are the most influential women in the industry?

A survey we ran last year confirmed that men remain overwhelmingly dominant at the most senior level within the mobile industry. So MCI and Telecoms.com set out to compile a listing featuring some of the most influential women in the sector.

In August 2009, MCI and Telecoms.com published a list of 40 people in the mobile industry who we considered particularly influential and worthy of note. The list was compiled from our own research as well as suggestions from our readers within the industry. A good number of the people who made the list would, perhaps, have seemed obvious inclusions. There are certain organisations, after all, whose weight within the industry is such that those at their helm commanded automatic inclusion.

If there was an overwhelming takeaway from the project, though, it was the absence of female executives on the list. Only one woman was present, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, a woman who has imposed herself on the European mobile industry with undeniable— and often unwelcome—conviction.

The rest were all male. So we decided this year to apply a filter and search out the most senior women in the industry. We’ve spent enough years working within the mobile community to know that there are plenty of female executives out there but we wanted to know what jobs the top of the pile are occupying, and within which organisations.

The first interesting result of launching this project was that the number of submissions for entry onto the list far exceeded the number from last year, when we were ranking people irrespective of gender. It wasn’t all PR agencies nominating their clients (although there were examples of this) and nor, by any means, was it all women nominating other women. What we took from this was the notion that there is a feeling within the industry at large, from men and women alike, that the progression of female executives is something that needs to be both recognised and encouraged by all.

The products and services that this industry creates are among the most socially and technologically advanced to which the public has access. So perhaps it should not be surprising that there are a good number of industry participants who want their sector to be seen to be progressive in other ways as well.

This exercise revealed a large number of women in senior positions within the industry, if not a large number at the very top of powerful organisations. Of those we spoke to, most were keen to play down gender as an issue requiring more attention than any other. Diversity is very important, it was universally agreed, but gender in particular should not be singled out. A good number of the executives featured here reported that gender had not been an issue in their progression, and that their experience as participant and observer suggested that talent and application are far more important to prospective employers than anything else. Nonetheless, most also talked of the importance of generating more enthusiasm among school-age girls for engineering and science.

As one executive put it: “Unfortunately, the low number of girls graduating from top universities with engineering qualifications is a challenge. It means that we’re not only depriving the industry of a valuable resource, but also perpetuating the current imbalance into the future.”

But most of the executives we spoke to were unwilling, or felt it unnecessary, to bemoan the plight of women bidding for the most senior positions in the industry. That said, one did report that, anecdotally, she had seen a number of women opt to start their own companies having become frustrated with the glass ceiling they had encountered at established players. So perhaps an evolutionary progress towards balance has already begun.

This list is presented in alphabetical order. To have your say on the list and to suggest others who you believe should have been included, please use the comments form at the foot of this or any other article in the series.


  1. Avatar elif inceleme 25/06/2010 @ 7:08 am

    there is also Turkey, Vodafone CEO Serpil Timuray

  2. Avatar Saleh Kayyali 01/07/2010 @ 10:23 am

    there is also in jordan Ms. Nayla Khawwam/ CEO Orange Jordan

  3. Avatar Viet Tran 05/07/2010 @ 6:00 pm

    Suggest to include Ms. Lynne Dorward, Chief Regulatory Officer at Zain

  4. Avatar Paul Harwood 06/07/2010 @ 10:45 am

    AHEM – I am NOT trying to make any sort of political point but …

    “Unfortunately, the low number of girls graduating from top universities with engineering qualifications is a challenge. It means that we’re not only depriving the industry of a valuable resource, but also perpetuating the current imbalance into the future.”

    The only thing that we are being deprived of are people who – quite reasonably – do not want to work in the industry! I get a little tired of the statement that somehow – engineers are to blame for that fact that more women do not want to be engineers. Why don’t we just accept that most women do not want to be engineers and that they have a perfect right not to be engineers and then everyone can be a lot happier about getting on with their lives!

  5. Avatar bob hendriks 06/07/2010 @ 10:59 am

    Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda…

  6. Avatar Dave.mac 06/07/2010 @ 1:13 pm

    Surprised not to see:

    Tanya Field, director of mobile data group at Telfonica

    Tomoko Namba, CEO of DeNA

  7. Avatar David Callisch 06/07/2010 @ 5:32 pm

    You also missed Ms. Selina Lo who is working with carriers around the world by driving 3G offload on to Wi-Fi networks. She’s very well known and profoundly successful in this space.

  8. Avatar Susane 06/07/2010 @ 9:20 pm

    You’ve overlooked the talent that lies in US leadership in Verizon with Virginia Ruesterholz, President, Verizon Services and Operations and Kathleen Sullivan, VP SMB Operations. Both are in amazing leaders in this field.

    Did you look far enough??

  9. Avatar Debbie Byrne 13/07/2010 @ 4:10 pm

    you definitely overlooked Danuta Gray, CEO O2 / Telefonica in Ireland, a very inspirational leader who has delivered great business results with strong emphasis on people

  10. Avatar Rónán 19/07/2010 @ 10:29 am

    I definately agree with the comment above, that you should have included Danunta Gray, CEO of mobile network, Telefónica O2 in Ireland!

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