By Debbie Storey, AT&T Chief Diversity Officer

What a great day! I always appreciate the chance to talk about how AT&T sets the bar on leveraging diversity to drive innovation and growth, and today’s roundtable, Diversity Is Good for the Bottom Line, hosted by the Center for American Progress, was an ideal platform for sharing our story.

One of our goals at AT&T is to move the diversity discussion among business leaders and policymakers beyond traditional definitions.  Do race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation matter? You bet they do.  That’s why AT&T’s been a leader in all of these areas for decades.  We’re recognized year in and year out by organizations like DiversityInc, the Human Rights Campaign, Black Enterprise Magazine and LatinaStyle because we’re the gold standard at ensuring diversity in all our business practices.  Getting to 39 percent women employees and 39 percent people of color doesn’t happen by accident.  And it’s not by chance that people of color hold almost a third of management jobs at AT&T, compared with a national average of 22 percent.

Beyond that, however, we’ve come to understand that the real value of diversity – as it relates to a company’s workforce – comes from leveraging the unique attributes every employee brings to the workplace.  At AT&T, that means valuing people with different educational backgrounds, learning styles, cultural norms, generational views and more.  When we create an inclusive environment, where every view is welcomed and embraced, we achieve an unprecedented level of innovation and creativity. 

And when we unleash that innovation and creativity in the marketplace, we have a profound impact on the way people live, work and play – and that’s really what AT&T is all about.

Another opportunity companies have to set the bar in the diversity arena, and again, one AT&T leads in, is Supplier Diversity.  It’s not enough to walk the walk yourself; we believe it’s our responsibility to help other companies as well. We established our Supplier Diversity program more than 40 years ago and last year we hit a new record, spending 23 percent of our procurement dollars ($12 billion) with diverse suppliers.  And, importantly, we don’t stop with big, prime suppliers.  We also work directly with diverse-owned small companies, offering training, mentoring, scholarships and more to help them land contracts with AT&T.

And one more way we walk the walk is in the area of community support.  AT&T recently announced a $250 million investment in education through AT&T Aspire, which aims to help address the high school dropout crisis in the U.S.  This amount adds to the $100 million invested earlier for a total $350 million commitment to education.  Much if this investment is targeted at diverse populations.

I love to tell our story, particularly to people in a position to affect positive change.  At AT&T, we really believe that when we Rethink Possible, nothing is impossible.  It was a great day.

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