Exclusives : Women in 6G Initiative Aiming to Help Close the Gender Gap in Telecoms

Women in 6G Initiative Aiming to Help Close the Gender Gap in Telecoms

6G - Woman working on a machine

“I’m an engineer by choice and an entrepreneur by chance, to be very honest.” That’s how Pavithra Nagaraj, founder of the Women in 6G initiative, described her unique path in a field dominated by male professionals who commonly stick with research only.

“Unique” because, unlike many of her peers, the BMS College of Engineering (India) graduate decided to combine the technology aspect of telecoms and areas such as business and social change. All of that led her to establish the first 6G-specific program to help close the gender gap in the industry.

“The World Economic Forum calculated that it’d take up to 189 years to get parity between women and men in the job market. Obviously, we don’t want to leave the gap open for 189 years,” she said.

In this interview with 6GWorld, Nagaraj addresses solutions to make the job market an equal space, discusses the Women in 6G initiative, urges event makers to feature more women on stage, and reflects on her experiences since officially launching the project last February.


How did you realise there was a need for an initiative such as Women in 6G?

When it comes to women speaking at events, there are much fewer than men. If you look at alliances formed in India and everywhere else or in prominent events, the proportion of female speakers compared to male professionals is very low.

When I started working on different 6G-related projects with my clients, for example, the contact person would always be a man. In the best scenario, the number of women in that particular team would be low.

In 2023, the World Economic Forum published a report about the gender gap. They stated that if it was to be reduced and taken to an extent where there would be parity between women and men in the job market, it’d take up to 189 years to get to that point.

Obviously, we don’t want to leave the gap open for 189 years. Each one of us must do something to decrease or close the gender gap to some extent.

How did it all start, and where the initiative stands today?

It started with a newsletter. I shared advice from various researchers in the industry, men and women. It got a fair amount of attention and people started appreciating me for the effort. This made me think of starting a community.

It’s been three months since we started Women in 6G, and in February, we released a list called 100 Brilliant and Inspiring Women in 6G. There, we celebrated the achievements and accomplishments of female researchers and industry leaders working on 6G projects from across the world – from Australia to the US, including countries like Turkey, Istanbul, Germany, the United Kingdom, all the regions.

In addition to that, we’ve launched various initiatives. As of now, we have more than 130 members spanning from 15 countries.

Our target is to reach 10,000 women by 2029 when 6G is expected to be launched. So, we will inspire, support, and educate women. We are interested in getting into 6G-related roles in all areas, whether it is in policymaking, technical roles, or anything else, any role related to 6G. The goal is to inspire more women to join the telecom field.

Which is a challenge even these days, I’d imagine.

It is hard to effortlessly find 10 to 20 women, to be very honest, working in telecoms. So we have to make sure we inspire many people and find these hidden professionals.

See, when you go to LinkedIn, not a lot of people on LinkedIn are active, and then they don’t talk about their work proactively.  I think in the future, it will change.

Women will proactively talk about their projects, and they will start sharing their work. Even now, prominent female researchers in the industry are also not active on LinkedIn, to be very honest. Somehow, we will inspire them to be more active.


We also offer a monthly speaker series. We invite not-so-well-known voices.

See, when we think about speakers, we always look for the known faces in the industry, right? We have to give an opportunity to people who are less known and are just getting started, maybe with three or four years of experience in the field.

What about the more experienced female researchers?

I was talking to a professional from the United States some weeks back. She told me that she is the only woman among 100-plus male professionals. She works at a prominent company, which is not a small place.

To be very honest, there are many companies in India where female professionals are in support positions, not real R&D positions. They are put in validation positions, testing, and all that. So, it’s not true R&D.

Even now, I think many people can’t believe that women can code and do all the work. We want to motivate more women to get into all positions, not just support roles or report-writing or anything like that. We have to be in leadership roles as well. That is the goal.

Universities sound like an important place to instigate women to pursue a telecom career. Does Women in 6G have a presence there?

We visit universities to encourage third- and fourth-year engineering students pursuing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees to get into the telecom field. Or, at least, give it a try.

Today, students seeking their bachelor’s degree want to join Facebook, Amazon, Netflix; that’s their dream. But no one is dreaming of getting into the telecom industry.

Going back to the job market for women. What do you make of the low number of female researchers working in telecoms, more specifically in 6G?

If we want to make 6G successful… see, it is not just about gender equality anymore. It is about having value in different thoughts and giving voice to everyone, not just men.

We have to listen to all the voices and value what women have to say about a given project, for instance. When you hear that other perspective, you might come up with a different idea or create a better methodology to work on that project. You will be able to earn good returns.

You mentioned some actions women in telecoms can do individually; what about the other players?

From an industry perspective, I think we have some options.

First, telecom companies need to make their presence felt. Young girls in college think telecoms might not be a suitable possibility.

I went to an event to give a talk about 6G use cases and KPIs — basic stuff. When I asked the students to name ten telecom companies, they were not able to because they were not aware of them.

In India, a lot of campus hiring happens. However, telecom companies rarely visit institutions. They just post the job online and hire someone from the list of candidates who applied.

When it comes to professionals, I think there are some initiatives out there coming to life, like women coming back to work from maternity leave or family reasons. Some companies have launched that idea, but how many people are coming back to work through similar initiatives? So that number they’re not showcasing is quite low, as per my knowledge.

From a personal perspective, women have to proactively apply for job opportunities. Again, companies should launch more visible initiatives. It should be both ways.

What are your plans for the future of Women in 6G?

Since it is our first year, we aim to reach 1,000 members by the end of 2024. December, we will organise a hybrid event called Women in 6G Summit, which will be hosted in Bangalore, India.

We will have researchers and industry professionals from across India working on 6G projects to share their experiences. There will be a lot of panel discussions happening in hybrid mode.

In the upcoming months, we will open the membership for companies and educational institutions where they can partner with us. So that if our members are looking for job opportunities, they can join the partner companies – the other way is also true: if the companies are looking for talented people, they can send us, and we will send them profiles that match their needs.

And we won’t charge any additional amount. The only amount we are charging is the membership fee.

My vision is that after some ten years or something, we should not be in a situation where we have to launch an initiative to inspire women. So that is the goal.




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