Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Jo-Anne Dunning, BT

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Jo-Anne Dunning, Head of FTTP at BT.

Jo-Anne Dunning, Head of FTTP at BT | BTR News
Jo-Anne Dunning, Head of FTTP at BT.
Women in Leadership facilitated by David Phillips | BTR News

Jo-Anne has spent most of her career in the (male-dominated) telecoms industry, working in commercial sales roles within manufacturing and distribution for Motorola during its UK heyday and then for Vodafone and EE. At BT, she is head of FTTP (fibre to the premises) for new developments, responsible for supporting new customers to buy high-speed connectivity for their new homes that sit in greenfield sites and new property developments.

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

Definitely. And I’ve experienced gender bias during my career. But I’ve learned that combating it is about not being shy about self-promotion: women can be less likely to put themselves forward, to ask for a raise or to take ownership of thought leadership. Overcoming the barriers is about attitude.

Have you felt that being a woman has given you an advantage in the industry?

No. But I think women can offer advantages to others now. Diverse companies are more profitable: those in the top quartile for diversity are 15% more likely to generate above- average profits. Now, I want to make sure I can help other women to put themselves forward and be brave.

Given the industry’s gender gap in leadership, how did you reach your level of success?

I’ve taken opportunities where they were offered and then figured out how make them work afterwards. Mostly, I’ve just gone for it. My focus has always been on accepting opportunities, saying yes to new projects and networking – meeting more people, and learning more. That’s been a consistent theme through my career.

What needs to change to inform the next generation of female leaders about the industry and the roles available to them? Do we need more support for women at school level to understand the opportunity?

I think we can all help. The message comes from ourselves, our families and senior leaders. I like to think of the quote from Maria Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund in the US, who said “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It’s about being visible as leaders for the future.

What does the future look like for women in property and what advice would you give the next generation of female leaders joining the industry?

The future looks better than the past: we’ve come a long way. For the next generation I’d say be brave, be honest and accept challenges. But it’s not just a question of what women do; everyone has a part to play. Leadership programmes, working practices and recruitment processes all need to take gender balance into account. Old-school ways of recruitment and promotion do not create diverse organisations.

Who inspired you/are your role models and who do you admire in the industry?

I grew up in a home where my mother was the trailblazer. As a teenager she was told that she could either be a nurse or a teacher, she became a teacher, completed her master’s degree and then she got a PhD at 65. She is a published Fellow.