Vodafone UK’s head of organisational development Helen Hodgkinson says it makes perfect sense for any organisation to respect, value and celebrate employees’ differences.

“Most businesses understand the intellectual arguments nowadays that diversity improves decision making and innovation, and that your workforce should reflect your customer base so you better understand consumers’ needs. Yet inclusivity is also the right thing to encourage in 2016,” she says.

Vodafone Group supports the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign created to promote gender equality internationally and empower women around the world.

“We are involved because technology is an enabler and has a role to play in allowing women and men to operate their lives in the way they want to. This goes beyond just flexible working, it is about helping people to be who they really are at work,” says Hodgkinson, who has worked in the diversity space for 10 years and at Vodafone since 2014.

Vodafone has about 2,000 employees in its Gender, LGBT and Disability Networks in the UK. It also hosts diversity workshops for its leadership team to encourage managers to act as role models to promote diversity and inclusion across the business.

Vodafone has targets for gender equality to create a more balanced workforce which is currently 70% male

“The networks give employees a voice even if they do not openly attend the meetings,” says Hodgkinson. “The LGBT network has been the most active this year with a presence at five Pride festivals around the country. For the London event we decorated the Vodafone shops and saw a 30% increase in footfall compared to the previous year.”

She accepts that Vodafone has more to do and that its leadership team is not as diverse as the company would like it to be.

The company has targets for gender equality to create a more balanced workforce which is currently 70% male. This is also reflected at board level at which 30% are women.

“Targets are useful but you have to change the culture at the same time to eliminate bias. You must still ensure your recruit people with the right skills so the correct business decisions are made.”

Hodgkinson says it remains a challenge to convince women and girls of the opportunities that a career in technology and telecoms can bring.

“We need to change perceptions in schools about STEM careers and show that there are great jobs for women and that you can progress.

“The technology sector needs to shout louder that it welcomes people whatever their background.”