The lack of women in telecommunications has been a source of concern for large firms and fortune 500 employers across the industry. Now the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum (WWLF) is opening doors for more women through education, mentorship and networking opportunities.
“As you know wireless is a very male-dominated industry and I’ve experienced first-hand how challenging it can be,” said Debra Mercier vice president of the Women in Wireless Leadership Forum.
Mercier who is the vice president of Business Development at Wireless Concepts credits both men and women who have helped to take her career to greater heights says she joined WWLF five years ago to create similar opportunities for a younger generation of women entering the industry.
“The main goal of our organization is to help our female generation pursue their career goals and overcome challenges”, said Mercier.
Education has become a key area of focus for the nearly two-decade-old volunteer organization which has grown in membership from 25 to more than 1000 members today.
In partnership with the Wireless Infrastructure Association WIA, its parent organization, WWLF has launched a nationwide initiative called the IMPACT Program which offers educational programming, discounts and networking opportunities to members both locally and nationally.
One of the biggest challenges for the workforce in the wireless industry is how fast things change and education is a key component to navigating successfully through them, says Mercier a thirty-year industry veteran.
“We are living in the information age where things change rapidly. Either you get on the train, or you will be left behind. In the blink of an eye, less than two years there could be a completely different driver for the industry,” said Mercier.
“ I didn’t have a program like this but I’ve seen first–hand how building the right relationships has helped me to navigate through these changes,” she added.
WWLF’s IMPACT program provides members access to local and national events, round table discussions and opportunities network and learn about key industry drivers, career development and work-life balance.
Mercier says another common problem women entering the wireless industry face is a lack of confidence.
For this reason, WWLF offers a mentoring program that connects young women just getting into the industry often with less five years of experience an opportunity be mentored by industry veterans like Mercier and others who have more than 10 plus in the industry.
Members of the mentorship program meet on a monthly basis to discuss a wide range of pre-programmed topics.
“I had the opportunity to work with a young woman from Houston. We addressed challenging topics such as how to manage staff members who were older, recruit the best candidate, create a social media presence and even writing an effective email to get the result that you want,” said Mercier.
“These things come naturally when you have been doing it for years, but for those who are just starting out they can be difficult,” Mercier said.
In its mission to empower and inspire women who are new to the telecommunications industry, WWLF offers a Fellowship Program. The winner receives on-site conference mentoring and an all-expense paid trip to ConnectX Conference in Orlando. The deadline for applying for this year’s fellowship is April 5.
“Last year my mentee received the fellowship award. While I have been to hundreds of conferences in my career, it was her first time. And having someone there to help make introductions and gain access to post-conference events was an amazing and eye-opening experience for her.” said Mercier.
Members of the wireless community interested in getting involved with WWLF can also take advantage of volunteer opportunities by becoming city representatives, mentors, or applying to join the Board said Mercier.
“For me, the IT and Telecommunications industry has been an amazing road and the connections I have made along the way have helped me to grow. I really want women and men in the wireless industry to know that WWLF is a place for them to grow,” said Mercier.
Those interested in learning about programs and volunteer opportunities can visit wwlf.org where they can reach out directly to Mercier and other members. WWLF will also be at booth #903 at the ConnectX conference taking place in Orlando next month and Mobile World Congress in October.