Bożena Leśniewska, Vice President of the Management Board in charge of the B2B market at Orange Polska
Since you have so much experience in management positions, we would like to ask you about your reflections on the career path from a woman’s perspective. Do you think that a woman’s career path is more difficult than that of a man? If so, what are the main reasons?
Research shows that business organizations recruit a similar number of women and men. At this stage, however, the symmetry ends. There are fewer women at the higher steps of the ladder. They perform managerial functions three times less often than men. Even though the situation is improving, the “glass ceiling” is, unfortunately, still visible.
My personal perspective is this: the world of business has historically been the domain of men. Women have been breaking in more and more effectively for about 20 years. For years it has been more difficult for us to succeed, because it required a paradigm shift. And every change is associated with resistance and anxiety, it breaks habits and forces people to get off the beaten path. The traditional division of social roles, deeply rooted in Polish culture, constituted another obstacle. This meant that for many years women had to reconcile the social role of a mother and keeper of the household with their professional activity. In recent decades this division of roles has become blurred, especially in those families where women are professionally active. The determination of women, increased sensitivity to equal rights on the part of men, as well as data confirming the measurable value of diversity in business are slowly abolishing the unwritten gender norms.
You have been involved with the telecommunications industry for 20 years. Which stage of your career turned out to be the most crucial and why?
I am an example of a self-made woman, climbing the career ladder step by step. I started as a sales representative at a time when this profession was not yet known in Poland. It was definitely a crucial moment, because then I discovered that a domain such as sales fits my personality perfectly. It requires speed, adaptability, determination, involves taking some risk, and is associated with constant challenges. Because of that I became involved with sales management for many years, and it was this consistency that made me feel fulfilled.
Another important moment was when I entered the world of technology, where I stayed for over twenty years. In 1996 it was difficult to imagine that in 20 years we will live in a digital world, and our smartphone will be our inseparable companion. Intuition told me that it is worth understanding and learning the telecommunications industry as the sector that would change the world. And although it was a challenge for a person educated in the humanities, today I can say it was worth it. These two decades were a time of constant change, new technologies, and a business revolution. At the same time, a time of constant personal development.
We would now like to ask you about the differences in the style of management with respect to gender. What are the weak and strong points of women and men in the highest positions in companies? What are the differences between both sexes in this matter?
The great value of diversity is the natural differences in communication, management style, and approach to risk between women and men. Empathy, intuition, ability to solve conflicts, making decisions based on consultations – these are the features that are now fundamental in company management. Statistically, they are more common in women than in men. The importance of diversity is also confirmed by hard data: after examining the results of Fortune Top 500 companies, it turned out that in enterprises where women constituted at least 25% of the management staff the return on investment was 66% higher and the profit on sales 42% better than in companies with less diverse management teams.
Experts believe that women-led companies can better assess and manage risk. Not only can they better address the problems of customers, employees, shareholders, or local communities, but also better focus on far-reaching goals. Personally, I am far from such unambiguous polarizations. I think that both men and women are needed in business to better address the needs of all clients.
Professionally you attach great importance to employees, their competences, as well as the teams in which they work. What is your recipe for team management in such a large company?
I believe that diversity is an advantage in team management, but companies are not always able to use it properly. Teams should not be homogeneous in terms of competences and consist of people who view a given project in different ways.
Age diversity is also an advantage. Younger and older employees can inspire one another. Young people can have a surprisingly different perspective on many matters, they possess digital competences, and are more straightforward in their judgments. They look for simplifications and improvements to achieve results faster. Older employees have extensive knowledge that they can share, and over the years they acquire experience that allows them not to waste energy on things that are unlikely to succeed.
This is why Orange Polska supports diverse teams, so that experience, knowledge, and commitment can complement one another effectively. All you need is smart managers who can use it. In addition to professional competences, a good boss should also demonstrate soft skills. Graduating from a good university and professional knowledge are not enough. Social skills, such as effective leadership, openness to dialogue, and the ability to cooperate, are also important.
Companies currently attach great importance to sustainable and responsible operation. What specific actions does Orange take in these areas?
Orange Polska offers services that are fundamental for the development of communication and digital transformation. It services millions of customers, employs thousands of people throughout Poland, and cooperates with thousands of suppliers, thus exerting a significant social impact.
We are aware of this impact and manage it in such a way as to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives. That is why we can say that the company conducts its business in a sustainable and responsible manner.
At Orange Polska we have been implementing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy in all areas of our activity for several years. Our CSR strategy takes into account the business goals of the company and stays in line with their implementation. Responsible management is the foundation of this strategy.
We place particular emphasis on cooperation and support for local communities, so that new technologies are an ally in economic and social development. We make sure that our network is secure and that the use of modern technologies is simple and risk-free.
These priorities translate into specific actions – supporting innovation, including through the Orange Fab start-up accelerator and the digital education programs of the Orange Foundation, targeted at various age groups, both the youngest and the older users of the network – MegaMisja, #SuperKoderzy, Pracownie Orange.
The Orange Polska CERT team and security mechanisms, such as CyberTarcza, effectively counteract millions of attacks on our customers’ devices every year. We also try to promote a culture of cooperation within the company, including through equal treatment, clear evaluation and promotion criteria, as well as comprehensive employee development or social involvement through volunteering.
Orange Polska has a significant impact on the Polish economy, both due to the scale of its operations, the volume of turnover, as well as the industry in which it operates. Modern telecommunications infrastructure and the services it enables us to provide change the way people and enterprises function. They form the “bloodstream” of modern and competitive knowledge-based economy. We cooperate with many organizations, create environments and networks that connect companies, universities, public institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
Many industries are currently facing numerous challenges, such as the lack of qualified staff. What are the biggest challenges faced by Orange Polska and how do you deal with them?
The employer’s market is long gone. According to demographic trends, it will be increasingly difficult for employers to attract and retain employees. The employer of the future must act flexibly, quickly adapt their strategy to changing conditions, and stay ahead of the competition in acquiring the competences necessary for effective operation in a constantly changing environment.
Company transformation, process automation, digital contact channels, and new network technologies result in a reduction of employment. At the same time, like in other industries, we must build new competences and acquire experts in digital solutions. The employees, therefore, have a sense of a constant changing environment.
Orange attracts passionate people by giving them access to modern technologies and opportunities to participate in implementations on a truly large scale. We create a friendly, digital work environment for our employees. We also want them to have the time and energy to take care of their private and family life and to pursue their passions. It is also important to mention that for years we have been perceived as a company offering not only very good employment conditions, remuneration, and benefits, but also a rich development offer. Our employees can use, among others, the international Orange Learning platform. Each employee choses their development path and is responsible for its implementation.
We utilize numerous recruitment tools. We want to share our offers wherever we can find candidates who are ideally suited to our needs. For students and graduates interested in our industry, learning about the world of human interaction and technology, we created the Let’s Orange program, which includes a summer internship program. It is an ideal solution for both the apprentice and the employer, a good time to get to know each other’s capabilities, the company’s potential, and its real offer. We also operate on social media on our fan page called Orange Praca.
The effectiveness of our activities is confirmed by the fact that Orange Polska won the title of Top Employer Polska 2019 and Top Employer Europe 2019. We were among the 5 best employers in Poland. This multi-stage certification process applies, among others, to talent development strategies, training quality, and implementation of new employees.
The last question concerns new technologies. At what stage are the works on the 5G network? How exactly will it differ from 4G (LTE) and when will it be widely available in Poland?
Orange Polska was the first operator in Poland to conduct 5G network tests outside the laboratory last year. By the end of this year, we will be launching test networks in several Polish cities. We want to check all the solutions available on the market to choose those that best meet the needs of our customers. But in order to launch a new generation mobile network efficiently and effectively, we need clear rules of the game, ordering the key elements of this puzzle: frequency assignment and adaptation of electromagnetic standards to those in force in other countries of the European Union.
The 5G network is expected to be more effective than the most advanced 4G LTE networks currently available – it will enable faster data transfer, lower latency, and support many more Internet of Things devices within the same area as the standard 4G LTE network. The implementation of individual functionalities will be gradual, first focusing on those required for fast data transfer. Orange Polska is also ready for the commercial launch of an LTE-M network, which, although based on the 4G network technology, will have the same IoT capabilities as the planned 5G network. In the future it will be included in the 5G network.
5G will provide many new opportunities in the digital transformation of business. Faster transfer will allow for greater use of the cloud and make remote work easier. It will be possible to use augmented reality in factories more often. Lower latency of just a few milliseconds will enable the remote management of autonomous cars or drones. IoT solutions enable more extensive automation of factories and cities as well as collection and analysis of data used to improve their efficiency and comfort of life of the residents.
- Place of birth: Kraków
- Cuisine: My daughter’s, immortalized on her blog dirtykitchen.pl
- Book: Viktor E. Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning”
- Hobby: I travel around the world, usually very intensively
- Dream holidays: On the way between great mountains and an ocean
- Music: Music accompanies me in moments of rest, which is why I like chillout the most
Last Updated on October 29, 2020 by Łukasz