Anne Chow, CEO Of AT&T Business: On The Journey To Inclusion And Diversity By 2030
By 2060 women of diverse color will be 50% of the population: Anne Chow, the CEO of AT&T, on how we accelerate diversity and inclusion by 2030.
Even the words diversity and inclusion are dangerous as they sound like-gating. We need to talk about words like belonging. Inclusion in the future is about companies going to where employees are, and not having employees integrate into your organization. Employees need to drive positive change in periods of seismic shifts in demographics, and this should be easy; the evidence is right in front of us. Anne Chow, the CEO of AT&T Business, talked to us about four critical steps needed to change the focus of senior leaders with or before any of these seismic changes transpire.
STEP ONE: Flat facts are undeniable, so lean on them. Any board should see the flat facts about the labor force before they make decisions about the composition of their boards because it cuts down the desire to move to emotional levels of response.
STEP TWO: Ask where are you today as an organization? That view of where a company is today on its’ overall hiring and promoting behaviors will tell you very quickly if you have broken rungs and or hard glass ceilings. In an increasingly cross-cultured world, seeing these hard failings should encourage you to recognize the need to get qualified and culturally rich candidates direct P&L experience. We cannot improve our perceptions of others unless we allow them to own a metric that measures success.
STEP THREE: Be honest with yourself and where you need to be. Ask yourself how to build a personal support network of those with similar experiences. AT&T has recognized this, and it has a network of networks inside AT&T to get support working for diverse communities. Programs like this started 50 years ago, and new ones are popping up today as the cost of creating them is almost zero. People belong to multiple tribes at the same time, so belonging is vital as people have various dimensions. In effect, having many moments of connectedness across these support networks builds the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed. Anne created one of AT&T’s fastest-growing Employee Networks AT&T Women of Business, which has 4,800 members across 27 countries.
STEP FOUR Build from the bottom up as a living organism We need to ask ourselves if the organization who I am and what I want to become in a new world of near-perfect information about companies, cultures, and diverse representation at management levels. We should be asking ourselves if the company fits you. Technology has awakened our expectations, so decisions about where we work with and what that company represents about inclusion and diversity should be part of a personal formula.
If we do not make these fundamental observations and decisions on entry or even at the selection point, it might take another 90 years before we get to the right places for women, let alone multi-colored women. As candidates, we have choices to make too.
Anne also talks about the need for the whole employee base to be part of this culture shift. She points to the idea of 100% of the employee base being committed to doing the right thing. Podcasts like this should be shared with colleagues as we all bear responsibility for building work environments that generate a constant sense of belonging.
This sense of belonging has and will remain a vital element of strength for corporations and their employees as we battle the current experiences and consequences of Covid-19. Anne Chow has held leadership positions in engineering, sales, marketing, customer care, international operations, product management, and strategic planning before becoming CEO of AT&T business. In 2005, she played a crucial role in the AT&T/SBC merger with overall responsibility for the Sales and Marketing integration planning effort.
Anne holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with Distinction from The Johnson School at Cornell University, as well as a Bachelor of Science Degree and Master’s of Engineering Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. She is also a graduate of the pre-college division of the Juilliard School of Music.