Feature Model Practice Women@AT&T: Mobilizing our Aspirations


Industry: Communications

Principle I: Employment and Compensation
Principle IV: Management and Governance
Principle VII: Leadership, Transparency, and Accountability

2014 Challenge Submission

AT&T has long been at the forefront of diversity in corporate America, with a lengthy track record of developing diverse talent. The company hired Emma Nutt, the first female telephone operator in 1878 – 136 years ago. The Women of AT&T – the oldest and largest of AT&T’s 12 employee resource groups (ERGs) – celebrated its 41st birthday in 2014, and LEAGUE at AT&T, the nation’s first LGBT ERG, was founded in 1987. In addition, AT&T was one of the first companies to establish an organization focused on building diverse suppliers – including female owners – with the creation of a Supplier Diversity organization in 1968. AT&T is a perennial Top 10 winner of diversity awards.

Against this strong diversity record, Women@AT&T: Mobilizing Our Aspirations was developed specifically to grow the company’s pipeline of female leaders. The initiative includes several programs – each supported by an infrastructure that ensures participants have the education, experience, and exposure to grow and develop – and an ecosystem, or culture, that starts with the “tone at the top.” A full suite of programs is designed to attract female talent into the business, develop a diverse pipeline of female talent, engage the talents and passion of women across the business, and inspire young women to pursue a career at AT&T – particularly women in the STEM fields.

AT&T senior leaders view Women@AT&T: Mobilizing Our Aspirations as foundational to running the business. Their commitment to attracting, retaining, and developing women and other diverse talent is viewed as a fiduciary responsibility to shareowners because they know that sustainable success requires diverse, skilled leadership.

Women@AT&T: Mobilizing Our Aspirations was launched in 2012, one of many deliverables of the Diversity & Inclusion infrastructure put in place at the merged AT&T in 2008. This infrastructure includes a Senior Vice President who serves as the company’s Chief Diversity Officer and is tasked with overseeing the company’s diversity initiatives. At that same time, Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson established the Chairman’s Diversity Council, which he leads, and is composed of his direct report team. The Council and the AT&T Board of Directors made a clear and unambiguous statement about the importance of diversity – by linking a portion of the executive leaders’ compensation to the achievement of key diversity goals.

How does this model practice work?

Of the four programs in the Women@AT&T: Mobilizing Our Aspirations, AT&T highlighted the Executive Women’s Leadership Experience (EWLE).

The EWLE targets a cohort of 20 high-potential female GM and VP-level leaders. These women receive in-depth education on all parts of the business – directly from senior executives via intimate conversations in classroom settings with ratios of 20:1 – and in small group sessions with ratios of 4:1, as well as informal lunches and dinners. They also attend three, multi-day sessions where they get to know AT&T senior executives and external thought leaders.

In the past two years, internal and external experts have briefed these women on emerging business and technology. They have taken deep-dives on specific areas of the business with C-suite officers in small-team sessions. Participants also work in small groups of two or three with learning partners who hold them accountable for applying what they’ve learned in the program. Their experiential journey also includes networking sessions with peers in other companies. A 2013 session was attended by women from Accenture, Bain & Company, Catalyst, Cisco, Citi, Deloitte, Frito Lay-PepsiCo, IBM, Procter & Gamble, Sodexo and Southwest Airlines. Responses from the external women attending the session were outstanding, with many of them reporting that the experience was “transformative.”

Impact: In a survey conducted at the end of the 2013 program, 100% of participants indicated they would recommend EWLE to colleagues. Their accountability as leaders was so impacted by the program that they felt the desire to “give back” to other women leaders at entry-level positions by:

1. Committing to take on two protégés each, one in their organizations and one outside;
2. Being “faculty” for virtual sessions, sharing the same messages they heard in their experience to entry-level women;
3. Committing to celebrate their personal leadership achievements and sharing what they learn from failures and setbacks as a way of growing together; and
4. Proactively delivering the message companywide – especially to women – that AT&T is a great place to work.

To date, 26% of 2013 participants have been promoted. Yet another outcome is a change in the culture: the conversation about the unique challenges women face as they balance work and family is now happening in a transparent and productive way across the business – and leaders in all organizations actively support the success and advancement of women.

“Our female-focused leadership development strategy and portfolio is created in partnership with the leadership team, and business-driven,” said Debbie Storey, SVP Talent Development & Chief Diversity Officer. “It begins with an overarching leadership strategy and addresses all aspects of leadership development. We actively monitor and measure the impact of each of these components to ensure that we're developing women who can engage employees and deliver business results – today and tomorrow.”

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

To implement a program similar to the EWLE:

• Establish a process, such as an annual talent review, to identify women leaders. High-potential leaders should be capable of assuming positions of higher levels of strategic responsibility.
• Ensure that there is a larger talent strategy and infrastructure that aims to ensure women have the education, experience and exposure they need to grow and develop within your company.
• Use senior leaders as coaches on a wide variety of business subjects and leadership dimensions.
• Provide networking opportunities through conferences. The EWLE lasts 12 months, including three on-site conferences. Although intimate in size at 20 female leaders, they are joined by an additional 25 external female leaders from a variety of companies and industries for the third conference in the 4Q, which enriches the conversation with different perspectives.
• Provide a variety of on-point topics in the curriculum. Recent sample curriculum includes Negotiating, Industry Landscape, Building New Businesses and Sponsorship.

See below for a list of the other three programs and learn more at…

AT&T Women’s Leadership Council/AT&T World of Women (WOW!)
Role Model video

Women of AT&T (WOA)

AT&T’s Women of Finance (AWF)

AT&T Women Leaders

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