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Business Leader of the Week: Meet Margherita Della Valle, first female CEO of Vodafone Group

IFM_Vodafone Group CEO Margherita Della Valle
Vodafone markets mobile phones, televisions, broadband devices, gigaboxes and hosting equipment

Vodafone Group or Vodafone is a telecommunication service provider. The company offers voice, messaging and data services over fixed and mobile networks. In addition, the company offers cloud and hosting, carrier, unified communications, payment, cybersecurity and Internet of Things (IoT) services.

The company markets mobile phones, televisions, broadband devices, gigaboxes and hosting equipment. Vodafone serves the automotive, consumer electronics, manufacturing, banking and financial services, healthcare, public services, smart cities, retail, utilities, and transportation and logistics industries. Operations are conducted through subsidiaries, joint ventures, investment firms and affiliates. The company is headquartered in Newbury, Berkshire, United Kingdom.

The development of the Vodafone brand began in 1982 with the establishment of the subsidiary Racal Strategic Radio Ltd. by Racal Electronics plc, the UK’s largest manufacturer of military radio technology. On the initiative of Jan Stenbeck, Racal Strategic Radio Ltd formed a joint venture with Millicom called Racal Vodafone, which later became Vodafone.

Recently, the company said it planned to axe 11,000 jobs over the next three years. The decision was made under Vodafone’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Margherita Della Valle.

“Our performance has not been good enough. To consistently deliver, Vodafone must change,” Margherita Della Valle said in a statement.

“We will simplify our organisation, cutting out complexity to regain our competitiveness,” she added further.

Margherita Della Valle was appointed as CEO of the company on a permanent basis in May 2023 after serving as the telecommunication giant’s interim boss for five months. She has been a part of the Vodafone Group for nearly 30 years.

    Who is Margherita Della Valle?

  • Margherita Della Valle is a 58-year-old Italian businesswoman, who was born and brought up in Italy’s Veneto city
  • She completed her graduation in 1988 in Economic and Social Disciplines and a master’s degree in economics from Bocconi University
  • During the early days of her career, Margherita Della Valle became part of Omnitel Pronto Italia, where she performed various roles, from marketing to customer management and finance, and later the company transitioned to Vodafone Italy in 1994
  • Margherita Della Valle served as Chief Financial Officer for Vodafone Italia from 2004 to 2007, later she became Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the Vodafone Group from 2015 to 2018
  • She served as Chief Financial Officer of the Vodafone Group in 2018
  • Margherita Della Valle is also one of 15 female CFOs in FTSE 100 companies, according to The Female FTSE Board Report 2021
  • She has also been elected as Chairman of 100 Group, the association that brings together FTSE 100 CFOs
  • Margherita Della Valle has been awarded the 2022 Alumna of the Year by the Bocconi Alumni Community
  • In 2023, Della Valle became the first female Chief Executive Officer of the Vodafone Group
  • According to a report by PeopleWorld, Margherita Della Valle’s average salary as interim Vodafone CEO reportedly stood at £1.1 million, however, other reports suggested she earned more as finance director in 2022 gaining £2.6 million in compensation

I want to see more female CFOs and CEOs: Margherita Della Valle

In an Interview given to Forbes, Margherita Della Valle addressed the issue of women lacking behind at the corporate leadership levels.

When asked about what all barriers are there which are stopping women from reaching the top of the finance profession, Della Valle said, “I think there are the same types of obstacles and challenges in finance, as in other functions within an organization. A fundamental obstacle is what people call ‘subconscious bias’. The definition of leadership, and the leadership attributes that people are looking for, are still very much male-dominated in nature. This colours daily interactions and promotions and also women’s own engagement when pushing their careers. Sometimes you see women just disconnecting from the game, because it’s not the game they want to play.”

“The solution to this problem is going to be more women in leadership roles and diversity at every level. That’s the real game-changer we all need to push for. For example, a couple of years ago I witnessed a training session on how women should behave in interviews if they want to be successful. In my opinion, it’s not the women who need to change to be successful in interviews,” she added further.

“It’s the interviewers who need to change and the nature of the interviews needs to be different. A lot of the advice that women get in terms of selling their competencies and looking confident might be different if the interviewers themselves were women. I believe personally that I interview differently from men,” Margherita Della Valle concluded.

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