Nº 3 2013 > ITU women pioneers
Interview with Julie N. Zoller
First woman to chair the Radio Regulations Board
Julie N. Zoller is Senior Deputy Coordinator of the Office of Multilateral Affairs, Office of International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economics and Business Affairs in the United States Department of State. Before this, Ms Zoller was Deputy Associate Administrator of International Spectrum in the Office of Spectrum Management, National Telecommunication and Information Administration, Department of Commerce. Ms Zoller is an elected member of the Radio Regulations Board. In 2008, she became the first woman to chair the Board. She also chaired the Board in 2011.
You’ve said that being on ITU’s Radio Regulations Board has been the highlight of your work with ITU so far. Why is that?
Julie N. Zoller: The RRB is public service at its finest — elected experts acting as custodians of an international public trust. Board members apply their collective expertise to solve the most difficult problems involving the use of the radio-frequency spectrum. In many respects, the RRB is the guardian of this precious resource. Chairing the RRB twice, and leading the preparation of the Board’s report to the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2012 (WRC‑12) on the stewardship of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, have been the highlights of my work with ITU. The fact that WRC‑12 endorsed the Board’s work and took action on so many of the issues we raised was gratifying. Both the leadership and the stewardship aspects were fulfilling.
You’re the only woman on the RRB. What would be different about a gender-balanced Board in terms of its work and its decisions?
JNZ: The members of the RRB are highly qualified in the field of radiocommunications with deep knowledge of the Radio Regulations and the practicalities of radio spectrum management. Members of a gender-balanced RRB would require these same qualifications. Gender is but one important factor in creating a diverse organization. Practising inclusion and leveraging different talents and perspectives leads to better problem-solving, expanded creativity, and greater commitment to the job and the organization. A gender-balanced RRB would have these same advantages, which would be a win-win for the Union.
What can be done to get more women onto the RRB, and more women to chair or vice-chair ITU study groups, the Council and other ITU meetings?
JNZ: Few women participated in the work of ITU when I came to my first meeting in 1997. Many well-qualified women are on delegations today. They are ready to be encouraged, promoted, nominated and elected. The ITU Constitution gives due regard to the need for equitable geographic distribution among the elected officials, members of the RRB, and seats on the Council. Geographic balance is achieved in the RRB and in the Council by a quota on the number of seats per administrative region. Is a step in this direction necessary to achieve gender equality? Perhaps, but adding value takes more than numbers. Getting more women onto the RRB and chairing study groups starts with experience and depends on nominations.
ITU has never had a female elected official. What can or should be done to change that? Why is this important?
JNZ: The Plenipotentiary Conference in 2006 (PP‑06) considered the first female nominees to the Board, and Martine Limodin and I were elected. As the first and only female members of the Board, we are pioneers in the implementation of the gender perspective in the work of ITU — a topic that has been discussed for more than a decade. At PP‑10, I was the only female candidate to the Board (and was again elected).
As Member States consider their nominations and their votes for PP‑14, I hope they will make women a priority and that we will see a record number of women nominated and elected. ITU launched the three-year Tech needs Girls campaign in 2012. Could there be a more powerful message to girls considering careers in information and communication technologies (ICT) than to have women at the top of the United Nations specialized agency for ICT? Tech needs Women!
What would you say to any women candidates seeking the chairmanship of ITU study groups or the Council, or an elected office?
JNZ: I participated in the World Café on Engendering Change that ITU held during Council 2012. It was a powerful event and I was struck by the consensus surrounding the importance of gender equality. Men and women, elected officials and delegates, ITU employees and Member States agreed on the need for better gender balance. They also agreed that bringing about change presents challenges we must meet. My advice to women who wish to chair an ITU study group or be an elected official is to secure the backing of your Member State early and go for it. The climate is ripe for success. Be bold — be willing to lead, to serve, and to demonstrate that digital inclusion is truly for everyone.