As a whole, the telecommunications industry has been traditionally male-dominated. However, the trend is rapidly changing as this business sector becomes increasingly augmented with talented women having profound knowledge and skills, and influencing an industry where high-ranking female officials were a rarity until recently.
Here is the list of the top ten women in the telecommunications industry, selected for their technical and business know-how, extensive experience, leadership and most significantly, their influence.
Michelle Bourque is Senior Vice President, Product, Marketing and Access Strategy for BCE Nexxia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bell Canada. The company provides wholesale services, including voice, broadband, hosting and co-location, and IP connectivity. As the leader of a team of product and marketing professionals, Michelle has introduced innovation and fresh perspectives to the wholesale marketing and product divisions. According to Michelle, women already have a significant presence in the telecoms sector, and she has met a number of great female professionals in the industry.
Shirley Bloomfield is the Chief Executive Officer of NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association, which is the premier alliance of nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies in America. With more than 30 years of experience representing the country’s smallest independent telecom operators, Shirley is also actively leading interactions and setting strategic partnerships among rural utilities and federal agencies, rural telecom companies, their larger counterparts, and further expanding business opportunities for NTCA members. Bloomfield also serves as a board member to an organization of women leaders in the high-tech industry – the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative and GlobalWin.
Mary McDowell is the chief executive officer and member of the board for Polycom, Inc. Prior to joining Polycom, Mary was in charge of Nokia’s Mobile Phones unit, where she successfully improved on Nokia’s No. 1 position in feature phones. Mary made her way up the corporate ladder at Nokia by changing their bureaucratic system, pushing decision-making to local levels so as to accelerate product development, thus reshaping the mobile phone industry. With Nokia’s growing emphasis on applications and software, McDowell spearheaded many company initiatives, including Nokia’s multimillion dollar acquisitions.
Kris Rinne serves as Director of Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson in Stockholm. Prior to this position, Kris was the Senior Vice President, Network Technology, Network Architecture & Planning, at AT&T. Having more than 30 years of experience in the telecom industry, she possesses a deep knowledge of network architecture and planning, skills that are invaluable for one of her main responsibilities of setting the direction for the network and the BSS/OSS systems.
Kathryn A. Walker
Kathryn A. Walker is a Managing Director of OpenAir Equity Partners. Prior to this position, she served as the Chief Information and Network Officer of Sprint Nextel Corp., leading the overall planning, designing and operations of Sprint Nextel’s wireless infrastructure. Kathryn is an expert technology strategist and respected telecom operator, and has excelled in fulfilling her extremely diverse responsibilities, including planning and operating complementary wireline and wireless networks, and managing large-scale IT integration projects.
Marianna Budnikova is a software engineer on the Microsoft Analog (HoloLens) team. She has Bachelor and Master degrees in computer science, and is actively involved in building mobile apps, video game development, rendering 3D graphics and using artificial intelligence to solve some of the world’s most complex problems. Originally from Russia, Marianna initiated the foundation of the Association for Computing Machinery Women’s Club at Boise State University to encourage more American women to pursue a career in technology. She also co-founded, and is currently a Chapter Leader, for Girl Develop It Boise, a local chapter of a national nonprofit organization that provides affordable technology education to women.
Nayla Khawam serves as a board member of Orange Egypt. Previously, she held the position as the Director of “Operators France” at France Telecom in Paris, following three and half years as the Chief Executive Officer of Jordan Telecom Group. Nayla had maintained Orange Jordan’s leading position amid tough competition, and oversaw the launch of Jordan’s first 3G network.
Violeta Vogel is an expert on artificial intelligence in Switzerland and one of the few women working in this male-dominated area. Violeta studied physics and mathematics at Siauliai University, Lithuania and computer linguistics at the elite Heidelberg University, Germany. Given a unique opportunity to work with some of the best scientists in the field of artificial intelligence, she was inspired to maximize her opportunities. For a number of years, Violeta has been performing research at the private institute owned by the German software giant SAP’s co-founder Klaus Tschira. Violeta is motivated by her conviction that the latest technology, discoveries and research should open up new perspectives, improve people‘s lives and create new jobs.
Marwa El Ayouti
Marwa El Ayouti, a former Chief Financial Officer of Vodafone Egypt, has recently joined Orange Egypt as their chief financial officer. She has more than 15 years’ experience, primarily in finance, and spent over 11 years at Vodafone. Marwa joined Vodafone Egypt in 2000, and has held various positions within their finance and marketing divisions, including Planning and Decision Support, Head of Investor Relations, International and Roaming, and Head of Strategy. Forbes Middle East named El Ayouti as one of the top 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen in 2017.
Victoria Strand is the Vice President Strategy and Marketing for the Middle East and North East Africa at the Swedish telecom vendor Ericsson. In 2010, Victoria was appointed as head of marketing and strategy within the newly formed Middle East region. Since then, Strand has also taken the lead in the commercial management and development of subsidiary sales channels, as well as sourcing and partnering for the Middle East region, covering 23 countries. Victoria’s career at Ericsson began in Sweden in 1989 as an area sales manager for the Soviet Union. Over the years, she has held a variety of positions in project management, technical sales support, HR and communications.
Today, women play a major role in the majority of global organizations, bringing unique skills and strengths to many industries. Importantly, the telecommunication sector now boasts their fair share of women in leadership roles, women who have shown the necessary courage, drive, and skills in paving the way to shape a more gender-balanced and successful industry of the future.