Empowering Women in Towers
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Empowering Women in Towers

How some of the towerco industry’s top brass are championing women in the industry

Women in towers report

In recognition of International Women’s Day we look back on the Top 20 Tower Industry Executives of 2023 report and how the telecom tower’s creme de la crème industry figures are championing women in its organisations – this is what they had to say.

Thomas A. Bartlett, President & CEO, American Tower

TowerXchange: How can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Thomas A. Bartlett, President & CEO, American Tower: Gender equity and inclusion are tantamount to success. Enabling women to join leadership teams starts with simply recognising the expertise and qualifications of women. As our markets of operation expanded, so did our global workforce.

I saw the need for a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) officer to further our culture of inclusivity and navigate the complexities of operating in 26 different countries. Our Board Chair, Pamela Reeve, thought as I did that this position should report to me directly to show the organisation the importance of this role. Colleen Richards Powell, Chief DE&I Officer, joined in March 2021 to lead our global DE&I initiatives.

Also, the success of navigating through the pandemic was largely driven by Ruth Dowling, our EVP, Chief Administration Officer and General Counsel. Ruth oversaw a global task force that prioritised employee safety. Her experience and talents made her a natural leader to balance customer and business needs, while monitoring global health guidelines and the employee experience. Ruth now serves as the co-executive sponsor of our women’s resource group and works to provide more opportunities for women employees around the world.


Rob Berrill, CEO, Connexa

TowerXchange: A 50/50 gender split is certainly a massive achievement, given international benchmarks. What do you attribute to the success of recruiting a diverse workforce from a gender perspective? How are you selling new staff on a career in towers?

Rob Berrill, CEO, Connexa: We had to expand the scope of where we were sourcing talent from and made a conscious effort to look outside of the industry to achieve this. As a company we have a bold ambition and a strong corporate purpose - To enable a more connected digital future for New Zealand – and that is something that obviously resonates with a lot of different people.

Secondly, I don’t see us as an infrastructure business. Our organisation is first and foremost a data-driven digital business, that just happens to deliver infrastructure solutions to its customers, not an infrastructure business that has a bit of data and works with a few digital processes. That different emphasis unlocks a larger talent pool. We are also very deliberate in the type of people we are looking for and have made sure we clearly communicated this message as part of establishing our corporate identity and attracting new staff.

One of the things I’m big on is for Connexa to be a business that delivers ‘career highlights’ for its people. What those highlights are will be different for each person, but Connexa should be a place where you can achieve them. Whether that’s designing new and innovative tower solutions, designing new digital processes, working with the best team, or making a positive difference for New Zealand communities at scale, it doesn’t really matter. It’s more about being part of an organisation that values helping you achieve and experience something that matters to you. The flip side of that expectation is that when someone joins Connexa they are joining an organisation where they will be expected to contribute to others achieving their career highlights as well. It works both ways.

As a towerco we are closely connected to the highly vibrant sector that is telecommunications and digital services. That is a high change environment and brings with it lots of opportunities, but also lots of challenges. One of the features of Connexa is that we’ve got a very large BTS commitment relative to the size of current site portfolio – just over 50% in fact. That means we have New Zealand’s largest ever forward committed new site build program. This has attracted people who want to deliver change at scale and not be constrained by traditional ways of working. We are not limited by the past ways of doing things, but excited about the possibility of developing a new digital delivery model that provides more value to our customers and in turn, enables a more connected digital future for New Zealand.


Jay Brown, President and CEO, Crown Castle

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Jay Brown, President and CEO, Crown Castle: Before joining Crown Castle in 1999, I worked at an accounting firm and a healthcare startup. I think others are drawn to our industry for the same reason I was; because maintaining meaningful connections with others and with the world around you is a fundamental human need, and our industry enables those connections through the flow of information.

The demand for data will continue to grow, as will the need for supporting infrastructure, so I see plenty of employment opportunities ahead in the telecommunications field. As we look for the best people for those roles, we have a long-term commitment to increase the diversity of our workforce. As one example, in 2021, 31% of our manager or professional employees were women and 46% of promotions were awarded to women. Additionally, we have a goal to increase our spending with diverse suppliers, which in 2021 was over US$160mn, or more than 10% of the total.


Marc Ganzi, Chief Executive Officer, DigitalBridge

TowerXchange: What career history brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Marc Ganzi, Chief Executive Officer, DigitalBridge: I started my career in telecommunications, gaining valuable experience in wireless infrastructure and tower development. From there, I founded several successful companies in the wireless and digital infrastructure sectors before founding DigitalBridge.

A career in towers offers diverse opportunities for growth and innovation, and it plays a critical role in connecting people and communities. It requires a unique blend of technical and business skills, making it an exciting and challenging field.

To enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams, we must address systemic barriers and promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organisation. This includes implementing policies that support work-life balance, offering mentorship and training programs, and creating a culture that values and celebrates diversity.


Suresh Sidhu, CEO, Edgepoint Infrastructure

TowerXchange: How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in the industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Suresh Sidhu, CEO, Edgepoint Infrastructure: Firstly, towers are a great business. Particularly if you like to do things that have a strategic and geopolitical element. You’re dealing with urban-rural divides, with national infrastructure development, with internet reach and essential infrastructure provision – so you’re doing important work for the world.

But what I really like is that it is a very “real” business. You will have a hand in building towers, you could be climbing them or arranging for someone to put equipment on them – in rain or shine. Unlike some other businesses, you’re not desk bound, and you will be able to see the impact you have on the world. Personally, I also like towers a lot because the industry presents a great mathematical problem to solve; generating long-term returns and dealing with complicated scenario planning is a lot of fun.

When it comes to women, as an industry we can do a better job. In ASEAN, most of our job creation is in the field, which tend to be very male-dominated. However, in other areas, i.e. finance, legal, marketing, strategy and many other critical roles – Edgepoint has focused on embracing diversity and hiring women.

Our industry needs more female role models. We also need to offer more flexibility because in many of our markets the responsibility for looking after the family still disproportionately falls on

women. We do not want to lose talented women when they hit their crucial working years because we are not helping them balance their family’s needs. At Edgepoint, we work from home two days a week and are flexible about when hours of work get done; we focus on outcomes not presenteeism. That culture helps reinforce a diverse profile for the company.


Tom Greenwood, CEO, Helios Towers

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women and local talent to join the sector and leadership teams?

Tom Greenwood, CEO, Helios Towers: I trained as a Chartered Accountant and went into TMT M&A in the 2000s, particularly focusing on telco. Within telco I found myself doing deals in Africa and meeting the people setting up Helios Towers. When I joined the company was a start-up; and when you join a start-up, you get involved in a bit of everything, so it was a great learning experience. That’s still true of lots of towercos today. As I graduated through the finance function, up to CFO in 2015, I always knew I wanted to move into the CEO role at some point. Helios Towers’ emphasis on business excellence helped me build the skills required to make the move.

Specifically, we utilise Lean Six Sigma as our business excellence platform, and from that, I picked up lots of the skills I use as CEO. On-the-job training is a key part of working for Helios Towers. Helios Towers is already attracting a diverse range of people to the sector. It’s a very dynamic industry. It’s an industry that’s growing today and will be growing for the foreseeable future. Towercos are beneficiaries of the technology and innovation advancements in mobile communications, which I personally think is hugely important for people’s lives and socioeconomic wellbeing.

So it’s a dynamic industry in which you can make a real difference. It is also still a fragmented industry which opens possibilities for consolidation over time and creates opportunities for progression for people seeking a challenging career. If someone wants a career in something that is inherently sustainable, that creates a lot of good for the world, that’s dynamic and entrepreneurial, that throws interesting challenges at you, that needs problem solving skills, then joining a towerco is the right fit. In the context of working across Africa and the Middle East, there is simply a huge infrastructure gap that you can help close.

Historically, the industry has had fewer women working within it, but that is beginning to change. Nonetheless, there still remains a lot more to do. Having it as a key point of conversation in this report is important and will continue to drive change in the industry generally.

We have female representation as a strategic KPI that is linked to our ExCo’s Long-Term Incentive Plan, so we have our neck on the line to see this improve. Our five-year Sustainable Business Strategy was launched 18 months ago with improvements in female representation central to the Strategy, alongside emissions per tenant and network population coverage. In those 18 months, we have already gone from women making up 24% of the workforce to 28%: up four percentage points in 18 months.

We’ve done this by improving our search for women executives, and ensuring our working practices are flexible and inclusive. As well as executive recruitment and working practices, it’s also important long-term to go up from the grassroots.

On local talent, investing and developing local talent has always been a big part of how we do business in Africa. 96% of all colleagues across the group come from the markets in which they operate. In most markets the Managing Director, Finance Director and Head of Sales are from the market in which they operate. We have done that through training, development and recruiting the right people. Having management teams on the ground that intuitively understand local business environments and customer needs is vital for a strong sustainable business model, as well as supporting local talent development.


Sam Darwish, Chairman and CEO, IHS Towers

TowerXchange: And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Sam Darwish, Chairman and CEO, IHS Towers: Women cannot succeed unless we create an environment which allows them to pursue their professional aspirations without sacrificing personal goals, including a family life. And this kind of balance needs to be found in a practical and pragmatic way so we can effectively enable them to compete in the workplace without having to feel they are sacrificing something important. For example, we continue to expand our Women In IHS Network mentoring scheme to help women accelerate their careers at IHS. This aspiration is emulated through to our highest level: 30% of our Board of Directors are female and I hope this trajectory continues. I believe diversity and inclusion makes our company stronger, more innovative, and better able to deliver for our customers and communities.

The second component is encouraging women and girls at an earlier age to consider STEM-based careers. That’s why we invest in so many local community, female-based STEM initiatives. Whether renovating girls’ schools with IT labs, to supporting the NGO Laboratoria in Brazil on coding bootcamps that train women in front-end development and UX design, helping UNICEF expand their Girl Power initiative in Côte d’Ivoire, or working with Luso-Robotics, Zambia Flying Labs, Girl Coders and the University of Zambia’s

School of Engineering to deliver practical robotics session and STEM careers days, I am passionate about helping young women become leaders of tomorrow.


Prachur Sah, Managing Director & CEO, Indus Towers

TowerXchange: What was it that attracted you to the telecom tower industry and how can we encourage more people to choose towers as a career, especially women?

Prachur Sah, Managing Director & CEO, Indus Towers: Both my former industry and the tower industry share similarities, and one of those is the ability to make a real difference to functionality of the market through investing in and delivering best-in-class infrastructure. This, alongside the opportunity to lead a very well-known and respected company in Indus Towers, was my rationale for making the switch.

The oil and gas industry struggles with a similar nd gas industry struggles with a similar gender gap to the tower space as well. I saw in my time there that despite being a male-dominated industry, there were steps being taken to encourage more women into the workforce. This requires us to change people’s perception of the work that we do, because there is nothing inherently about it that stops women from filling any role.

The main thing is change people's mindsets towards the sector. One proactive step that we are taking at Indus is to make sure we have more women in our senior leadership team so that we have highly visible female role models. This will prove to people that you can make this career work for you and thrive at our company.

We’ll also look outside the industry to fill these roles, to demonstrate the crossover skills that apply to the tower space. We also need to be proactive at a grassroots level and encourage more women to apply for our entry-level and graduate jobs.

Fortunately, the talent pool in India is very large! We aim to eventually get to 30% female representation across the business, and this year our target is to increase by 3-4%.


Helen Marquez, CEO, MIDC

TowerXchange: As an industry, how can we encourage more women into the Towerco sector?

Helen Marquez, CEO, MIDC: I think one of the reasons towercos can be maledominated is due to security as the job can entail deployments to remote areas. However, other than that, it is essential to recognise that the majority of roles within towercos are well-suited for women. Therefore, we actively promote and encourage the recruitment of women in various areas such as legal and regulatory, property management, operations, finance, and supply chain management.

It is crucial to create an inclusive and balanced recruitment process that does not make anyone feel discriminated against. We strive to ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all candidates during our hiring processes. By highlighting the diverse range of roles available within the towerco sector and actively supporting women’s recruitment, we can break down gender barriers and foster a more inclusive and diverse industry.


Dagan Kasavana, CEO, Phoenix Tower International

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Dagan Kasavana, CEO, Phoenix Tower International: I am an accountant by trade and worked for seven years prior to my work in towers at Ernst & Young as an auditor and then a manager in their Transaction Advisory Services practice. Thankfully I had a couple of tower companies as clients including a two-year-old US tower company called Global Tower Partners led by its CEO at the time, Marc Ganzi. Marc hired me to work at Global Tower Partners and after that business was sold in 2013, I founded Phoenix Tower International. When I was introduced to the business model while working at E&Y, I immediately realized it was a unique model.

Combining the secure rights afforded with owning real estate with the growth led by strong growing telecommunications operators under a model of long term leasing of space and monthly/annual payments of cash seemed like it offered long term stability like other real estate investments. With significant upside from the 3G, 4G, 5G, xG build-outs that would add more equipment on the towers, spurred by growing data and voice usage by mobile network subscribers, the tower model is truly unique. I was excited to take the job to run Mergers and Acquisitions for Global Tower Partners and never looked back. My initial reactions to the fantastic model and industry hold true today which is how I sell a career in towers to others.

PTI prides itself on having a diverse workforce and leadership team. Women comprise almost 50% of the work force and a significant portion of the senior leadership team. A more diverse team with different perspectives makes better business decisions and we will continue to support diversity including gender equality across the organisation in terms of compensation and responsibilities. This is part of our

ESG framework that the Board of Directors is quite supportive of and is one example of making PTI the best company our employees have ever worked for and an area we are proud to lead on.


Dhananjay Joshi, CEO, Summit Digitel

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Dhananjay Joshi, CEO, Summit Digitel: I’ve never had a job that wasn’t in the telecommunications sector since I began my career over 30 years ago! Things really got started for me over my 17 years at Ericsson, rolling out networks both at home and abroad. This role gave me a lot of experience, across project management, key account management, and new business. I was a VP P&L head of the customer unit before I left in 2014 to take the COO role at Bharti Infratel. Between my stints at Bharti Infratel and Summit Digitel I was the CEO of Quadgen Wireless, where we worked with operators in the US deploying 4G and 5G outdoor and in-building connectivity projects. We also worked in India on some smart city projects and on deploying fibre to remote villages as part of the government’s digitisation strategy.

I wanted to join the infrastructure world after realising how important efficient and sustainable passive infrastructure would be to the rollout of 4G and 5G. It was clear to me that digital infrastructure would be crucial and investment would be a key government priority in India to help drive connectivity across the country and unlock the benefits of internet access.

I learnt a lot at my time in Ericsson and received amazing training, while the Bharti Infratel role gave me a chance to be a part of this exciting journey for India and enter a business that has a 360 degree view of the industry. During my tenure at Bharti Infratel, I had the invaluable opportunity to gain hands-on experience across various facets of the business, ranging from managing on-the-ground operations to engaging with stakeholders and investors.

One pivotal realisation that shaped my career trajectory was the impact that passive infrastructure can have on the sustainability of the wider telecoms industry.

Through my work in the tower sector, I discovered the potential for optimising operations, embracing renewable energy sources like solar, and exploring hydrogenbased solutions. By making these changes, we can significantly improve the industry's environmental impact and move towards a more sustainable future. There is also a creative element to working in passive infrastructure. While a radio unit will look like a radio unit no matter where you are in the world, we can design sites that fit within the local cityscape or rural area and blend in, making the network more aesthetically pleasing.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to drive innovation and ensure a broader range of perspectives. To achieve this, we need to establish an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion. This includes providing designated positions where we actively seek to hire and promote women employees. Additional flexibility is provided to women employees to be able to balance work and commitments at home. Currently, 10% of our workforce is female, and we want to increase that to 15% by the end of the year.


Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Christina Endresen, CEO, Telenor Nordic Towers: Before I took the role as CEO of the Norwegian towerco, I held a position in the B2B business of Telenor Norway, where I led the customer operations and billing unit.

Before that, I gained experience working at a utility company and a broadcast company. Throughout my career, I have consistently worked at the intersection between people and infrastructure. One aspect that excites me about our industry is that we play a crucial role in driving green and digital transformation worldwide. Being providers of critical infrastructure, we enable these advancements to take place. The business landscape within our industry is brimming with innovation and opportunities to operate sustainably. This presents immense potential for being a valuable partner and participating in a growing industry. Joining the towerco industry means becoming part of a sustainable business that also offers growth prospects, making it an attractive choice.

Unlike large organizations, we are not confined to a narrow scope of work. When you join our team, you could explore various areas and contribute to a broader perspective within the value chain. Many towercos are not massive entities, which means that you can make a meaningful difference in multiple ways. By prioritising the three Ps (people, planet, and profit), we also attract women to join the sector. It is important to have a diverse representation of women in this industry, which is why we actively encourage more women to join. My experience is that women often prefer companies where they see existing female representation.

To achieve this, we need to actively communicate the attractiveness of our industry and highlight the presence of women within it. In Telenor Infra, we have achieved gender parity with 50% female leaders in our management team, and we have a significant number of women in leadership roles overall. Our current focus is on attracting female talent to technical positions, encouraging more female engineers to join our ranks.


Maria Scotti, CEO, Torrecom

TowerXchange: How can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Maria Scotti, CEO, Torrecom: Our culture has always been to look for and hire the best and brightest. We develop people within our organisation who strive to learn and contribute. Cultivating people within an organisation comes in a variety of ways and has to be part of an organisation’s culture. Cultivating people outside of an organisation has to happen on a much grander scale. Our industry is fed from electrical engineering, civil engineering, real estate, law, financial sectors, etc. We have a tendency overall, not just the towerco, to look for someone who has specific experience vs. looking to existing skills that can be adapted well to towerco.

Towerco specific experience was and continues to be limited in our markets. I will add that many of our longstanding team members had no towerco experience and have risen to management roles and in fact are part of upper management. Putting together a group from all our organisations to work with and invite to network is critical. Platforms such as TowerXchange are a perfect vehicle to cultivate that.


Stephane Beuvelet, CEO, TowerCo of Africa

TowerXchange: How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women and talent from within Africa to join the sector and leadership teams?

Stephane Beuvelet, CEO, TowerCo of Africa: There are a wide array of jobs and career opportunities working for towercos and whether you come from a commercial, financial or engineering background there will always be a role for you. We also have small teams, so each person plays a bigger role and their work has a greater impact on the company as a whole. People also need to utilise all of their skills to work in the tower industry, which is particularly appealing to young people, who are always keen to develop new and enhance existing skills.

People also need to have deep knowledge of the product and what they are selling, and there are a lot of new services being introduced in our industry. Young people like to be associated with companies in their growth phase rather than established ones, so there is a lot of excitement in building a career at TowerCo of Africa and the tower industry.

We are very proud and lucky to have two women at executive level in our Opcos; the CEO of our DRC operations and CFO in our Tanzanian team. If you have the skill set gender isn’t a barrier to working for us. Diversity is in our DNA and if we find women with the right skills, we are keen to place them in leadership positions. It is the skills which really matters to us.


Thomas Reisten, CFO, Vantage Towers

TowerXchange: What is your career history that brought you to your current role? How would you sell a career in towers to people setting out in industry or considering a change? And how can you enable more women to join the sector and leadership teams?

Thomas Reisten, CFO, Vantage Towers: I have 25 years of experience in the telecom industry, and I started during a period of rapid growth. Our industry offers many opportunities as we continue to expand, with digitalisation and digital infrastructure as the main drivers. There is a lot of exciting work to be done in the future.

Vantage Towers is a leading player in the industry and our teams operate in diverse and international environments. Currently we have 36 different nationalities and 41% of our employees are female. Additionally, 37% of women hold leadership positions and we will continue to develop this. Another aspect of our inclusivity is that we recognise and celebrate diversity. We have a participative management style – we empower our employees by enabling them to actively participate in the company. We prioritise the development of our people, helping them reach their full potential. And lastly, if you think about the products we offer, they are highly relevant to society as connectivity impacts people’s lives. Each of us at Vantage Towers identifies with the meaningful work we do, which is truly exciting.

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