“We don’t do dull” stated CANTO’s Secretary General, Mrs Teresa Wankin, as she opened the 36th Annual Conference held virtually for the first time in the event’s history!

With speaker and attendee participation crossing time zones from the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the United States and the Middle East to Asia and Australia; CANTOs virtual 36th Annual Conference brought colleagues directly into each other’s homes and offices for 3 days of compelling conversations.

Expertly guided by host Wendell Etienne,from July 28th – 30th, Government ICT and Tourism Ministers, Telecommunications Executives and Senior Officials, Academics, Vendors and Partners in Digital Development networked and shared diverse views on all aspects of our ever-expanding digital landscape, in another dynamic CANTO Annual Conference; once again characterised by well-balanced discussion interspersed with engaging entertainment.

Immediately setting the tone and standard for the three-day digital discourse, CANTO Chairman David Cox moved easily from his opening remarks, which acknowledged the ongoing commitment of all healthcare personnel assiduously working to keep us safe in our new reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, into his fireside chat with Cable and Wireless Communications, Chief Executive Officer, Inge Smidts.

In a wide-ranging and often personal interview, Ms Smidts allowed viewers a look through her lens into the world of headline sponsor Cable and Wireless. CEO Smidts highlighted C&Ws overarching mantra of Connectivity-wanting to connect people while taking care of their employees. She praised C&Ws “hugely committed and diverse workforce” as one of the major factors in the company’s success in tandem with the awareness that the “Customer is my boss”. Moving forward, the top Executive spoke of the need to bring more fibre to the Region and the expansion of connectivity into rural areas. Partnership and collaboration with Regional Governments based on super clear goals and open discussion was noted by Ms Smidts as key to achieving the Region’s digital’s objectives.

Keynote Speaker Julianna Rojas, Latam Telcos Lead of Gold Sponsor Mircrosoft, shared strategic insights related to Cloud Computing and Digital Transformation. Noting that the pandemic had brought decreases in Telecoms revenue streams, Ms Rojas proposed that ICT and IoT growth may to used to recover revenue, as post-Covid long term recovery demanded huge internal changes. Mircrosoft’s new digital solutions and new service portfolios would provide opportunities to companies and organisations ready to incorporate digital transformation into their company’s strategy. Ms Rojas encouraged companies to renew, innovate, retool and rethink ways to do business as digital technologies must now be included in any business model of companies focused on success.

To close the morning session of day 1, CANTO’s Women in ICT Committee assembled a powerful panel of female ICT Executives to discuss Women in ICT Leadership, moderated by Wendy McDonald, Senior Director, External Communications and Stakeholder Relations.

Panellists; IT Lead Specialist – Business Partner Group Head at Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Daysi Andrades; Vice President, Human Resources and Talent Management, Cable and Wireless, Sonali Desai; and Global Head, Connectivity & Access Policy, Facebook, Monica Desai; all acknowledged that women to a large extent still remain underrepresented in ICT careers, particularly at the most senior levels. Why? Certainly not because they are not interested in ICT or not capable but as an IDB noted, “women still shoulder the brunt of domestic work and women are over-represented in the service sector”.

Monica highlighted the need for mentorship programmes in ICT for women and girls. She noted fbs skills training for girls and their partnerships with communities and non-profit organisations. As well she indicated that several fb policies allow for the inclusivity of women such as flexible schedules and time off to treat with health matters.

Daysi advised that women already in ICT should ensure that their digital skills are upgraded to include new applications. She shared with the panel that, at the IDB, some funding criteria is also hinged on the number of women in the company’s workforce.

Sonali noted that when looking at male/female percentages, it is unfortunate that often as you move up the corporate ladder the gaps in male:female ratios widen to the detriment of women; for example at the lower levels you may find a 50%/50% male/female workforce but at the executive level it becomes a 73%/27% male/female ratio. Sonali pointed to the fact that there were several prominent female leaders at Cable and Wireless Communications.

All women agreed that girls and women should be encouraged to see careers in STEM as a viable career option. Organisations should commit to develop policies that recognise and develop the leadership potential of women to co-lead with men.

The last words to the female workforce… “Don’t mimic male behaviours”, “Push for what your truly believe”, “Don’t be a guy, be a girl”, “Be you”.