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This month, Telecom Review features another notable woman telecom leader, Rima Manna, Vice President, Middle East at Nokia, who shares her insightful perspective on business, sustainability and women’s empowerment.

Can you tell us more about your business and entrepreneurial role at Nokia, especially as a leading woman in the telecom industry?

Throughout my career in telecommunications and IT, I have always been drawn to companies that pushed boundaries. This drive for growth brought me to invaluable opportunities across multiple organizations covering the MEA region.

In my current position as Vice President for Nokia’s Middle East Market Unit, my role is to shape successful region-wide growth strategies that include business model transformation and revitalization of sales organizations.

Early on, I saw technology as a catalyst to transform our lives, and now I recognize it as a crucial means of preserving our planet. I am proud to be part of the collective efforts in our company and the industry to bring about these changes.

After changing its brand name, what strategy is Nokia currently adopting toward new cooperatives and partnerships in the Middle East and Africa?

The new logo reflects the energized, dynamic and modern Nokia of today: a B2B technology innovation leader playing a pivotal role in an increasingly digital world, driving productivity, sustainable growth and inclusive access. It underpins our strategy to be solely focused on being a B2B technology innovation leader and scaling the B2B business as we capture the opportunity of digital transformation in every industry.

The refreshed brand is a visual representation of Nokia’s purpose: “to create technology that helps the world act together.” Created from five abstracted letterforms, each works together to read as “Nokia.” This is symbolic of our belief in collaboration. We are bringing together customer and partner ecosystems to create tomorrow’s digital services and applications — delivering a collaborative advantage together.

Nokia’s Channel Partner strategy is to strengthen and grow our Enterprise Go-to-Market approach by utilizing global Channel Partners such as Service Providers as Partners, Value-Added Resellers (VARs), Distributors, Global Systems Integrators (GSIs) and Industrial Partners. Partnering together, we bring state-of-the-art Nokia networking solutions such as Private Wireless and Passive Optical LAN with partner integration services and expertise across manufacturing, defense, mining, transportation, healthcare, utilities and public sector industries.

Together with our partners, we provide enterprises — both large and small ones — with market-leading networking solutions and design, implementation, testing and validation services to enable further innovation and digital transformation.

Considering the significant competition, how can you create balance and sustainability in business and respond to customers' demands simultaneously?

We see the potential of digital to create a more sustainable, productive and accessible world. At Nokia, we believe that there is no green without digital. We believe that ESG is a driver of value creation and new revenue streams. Our ambition as first-movers is to create new competitive opportunities while creating tangible environmental and social benefits. We believe the technology we provide enables both environmental and social benefits to individuals, industries and communities that far outweigh any negative impacts. These benefits represent the handprint of digitalization and connectivity. We have both a social and an environmental handprint. We work hard to maximize this handprint. At the same time, we know we must continually strive to minimize any potential negative impacts of technology. This is our footprint. We work to make our footprint on the world around us as small as possible. We collaborate throughout our value chain to continually minimize our footprint.

In the Middle East, I have seen that our ESG strategy resonates very well with our customers. We signed several MOUs with key CSPs to collaborate on maximizing our roles when it comes to ESG in the region. We continue to work closely to bridge the digital divide, empower women in technology and make sure that we reduce the waste and carbon footprint related to our products and solutions. I am really very happy to see that, as an industry, we are taking the right steps and prioritizing sustainability.

As a woman telecom leader, how would you describe women's progress in the labor market in general? In the telecom industry in particular? What are the key challenges?

While great strides are being made in including more women in the telecom industry, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure greater diversity and equality, and the private sector is a vital stakeholder in making this a reality.

Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development states that “information and communications technology and global interconnectedness have great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies.” It is therefore critical that, as an industry, we enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.

According to UN Women, there are several barriers that contribute towards creating and sustaining the gender gap in innovation and technology, which include the underrepresentation of women innovators and entrepreneurs and the continued prevalence of negative gender stereotypes.

Finally, how does Nokia support women and seek to activate their roles in current and future projects?

As Nokia, we are proud signatories of the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a set of Principles offering guidance on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community. We are also collaborating with UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment, to further promote inclusion and diversity in the Middle East and Africa. As part of the current collaboration, Nokia continues to work on implementing the WEPs, and UN Women involves Nokia in its outreach initiatives to promote inclusion and diversity in society. Under this collaboration, the two organizations have launched the following four different pilot projects.

Increasing the number of women employees: This project aims to increase the number of women employees in Nokia Saudi. As part of this project, the company will continue to foster a fair and dynamic working environment for female employees. Nokia employees will also reach out to female students in universities to create awareness and motivate them to join the workforce. In addition to this, the project includes raising awareness of cervical cancer and uterine fibroids, promoting STEM education, and Empowering gender-based violence victims.

We also recently successfully concluded our first ‘Women in Leadership’ programme in partnership with e& and UN Women, solidifying our commitment to promoting gender diversity, empowering women, and encouraging sustainable business practices. The ‘Women in Leadership’ programme is designed to increase the number of women in decision-making roles within the tech sector and integrate gender-balanced approaches to innovative business opportunities and technology solutions. The programme aligns with the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, of which both e& and Nokia are signatories, with the goal to empower women to pursue leadership roles and contribute to a better future for all.

Throughout the program, the participants not only embraced the challenges related to sustainability and women's empowerment but also demonstrated a remarkable capacity for collaboration, innovation, and critical thinking, leaving a lasting mark of excellence.

The module journey of the program supported the participants in choosing their challenges that focused on ESG, inclusion and diversity, partnering to work beyond borders and creating innovative business solutions. The challenge winners presented ground-breaking design concepts and prototypes, receiving well-deserved recognition for their innovative ideas at the closing event.

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