Unleash the talent of Women in Business

Meet Kirste Johnston a Sales Sector Head within Regional Business Scotland & NI and hear her story and overview on how Vodafone unleash and unlock the talent of Women. 

I grew up in a single parent family in a council estate, in the small seaside town of Prestwick, on the west coast of Scotland. I was blessed to be brought up in a family full of strong and independent woman as role models. I am pleased to say the world we woman work in now, is a very different place to when my mother had to work and bring up a family. Time has moved on significantly from the male and female inequalities of the seventies. There are many more opportunities for Woman in the workplace to soar, particularly within Vodafone.

There is of course still work to do to ensure parity of senior level roles and director boards within organisations across our industry  and that they reflect the diversity of society; be it gender, ethnic background or whichever box society places you in. I am proud to say that at Vodafone we have a strong focus on ensuring our business genuinely do reflect the diversity of our society, and that there is a strong active support network to achieve this idle.

On leaving school at 17, I applied for College to study Art & Design, with a passion for anything creative. I left home around the same time, and the harsh reality of low income and bills to pay quickly drew in. I decided I wanted to maximise my earning potential and took on two jobs; one was waitressing, the other self-employed selling advertising space for a media company. I quickly recognised I really enjoyed the world of sales, the buzz of landing that deal, and the reward of a commission payment hitting the bank account. Vodafone support developing our young workforce, and believe there is no wrong path to career success.

This led me to the communications industry fairly quickly. It wasn’t hard to figure out the world was on the brink of a technological revolution, this excited me and I wanted to be part of that. I started out my communications career at the age of 19, taking a job in a mobile communications shop, owned by a small local reseller. The world of communications was very much male dominated at that time. My career progressed quickly as I thrived in a sales environment, leading me to managing my own store, and then managing a team of business to business field sales.

Pre Vodafone I worked for a major competitor and each time I had a child my career took a back seat, and the age old battle of being a domestic goddess mum versus career woman loomed. I knew I was in the wrong organisation, there was not a lot of support and I wanted to work with more like minded, and forward thinking people, such as Vodafone. Vodafone have a support network that we call ‘Re-Connecting’. It’s all about re connecting woman with our business, and ensuring the support network is in place for woman to thrive.

I am now 25 years down the line in my career in the technology and communications Industry, having been with Vodafone for the last 4 years. Wow, what a breath of fresh air it was joining a truly innovative company with a genuine appetite for supporting woman in business. In every role in every other technology business for which I was employed prior, I was the only female in my team doing senior sales, strategy or a sales management role in Scotland.

At Vodafone I now work in an environment where the balance is far better; where men and woman collaborate and bring their varied skills together to ensure excellence and success not only for our business but for the individuals. An example of this is our ‘He for She’ Campaign, for which there can be miss-perceptions. Be clear this is not about promoting woman in business purely for being a woman and balancing the numbers. This is about having the support of our male colleagues and promoting positive opportunity and thinking about woman, unlocking their talent and understanding the different challenges they face to men. 

The men in our business want their sisters, mothers, daughters, colleagues to have the same opportunities and earning potential as they do. This is what He for She is about. Ensuring the men and women in our business work together providing fairness of opportunity and earning potential.Every day within Vodafone I am in awe of the amazing woman leaders we have. They inspire and support me to be the best and can be, as do our male counterparts. It’s very refreshing culturally. We also have a number of Woman’s Groups within Vodafone. 

I pioneered Vodafone Scotland & NI’s ‘Lean In’ Group for woman. A network who offer advice and support to woman in our business across a raft of topics; be it woman’s health & fitness, learning & developing your career, our Mentor Programme or Re Connecting, we have support across the organisation at hand to help woman recognise their potential. In my previous Vodafone role I Sector Headed the Mid Market Sales Team. I am delighted to say, my team were 1:1 male to female ratio. My top performer was coincidently a woman. She won sales person of the year 16/17 for the whole of our region. I had spent a year helping her recognised her true potential through performance coaching and a supportive approach. The talented woman in our business bring a positive dynamic to what we do, as do the talented men. There is a genuine mutual respect within the men and women in our business. It’s not about our gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background, it’s about the work ethic, skills and talent of each individual. I have been inspired by our business to help support and promote woman in our workplace.

I nominated one of my team, my top performer, for the Woman in Sales Awards Europe17/18. This was a fantastic opportunity to raise her profile not only within Vodafone yet across our Industry Europe wide, and I was delighted she was rewarded as a finalist.  The ethical values of our organisation were another big attraction to me as a woman, in joining Vodafone. I find this is a common attraction to many woman and men in our business. An example of this is that our people can volunteer 3 working days a year with a charity of their choice. I volunteer with a wide range of charities, and also sit of the Committee of Ayrshire Business Women. It’s so rewarding being able to genuinely do so good in society and having the support of your employer to do so. As a woman, it’s also important to me personally that Vodafone care as a corporate organisation and contribute back into society.

Whilst being with Vodafone I have benefited from widening my professional network, and sharing best practice, engaging with some empowering woman both internally and externally. As a member of the Scottish Business Woman’s Association and also Ayrshire Business Woman Network, it’s fantastic watching so many women evolve and succeed in business. 

I have worked my way up into the regional senior leadership within Scotland and Northern Ireland, and sit on the local Regional Board for Vodafone, and I love that Vodafone actively support woman; recognising that in as much as we are different to men, we have so much value to bring to business. I can’t profess enough that Vodafone ultimately unlock and unleash the talent of women. I encourage more woman to grasp the opportunity to work in such a fantastic organisation and join the Vodafone team!

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