Diversity at AT&T is more of a business strategy than cultural notion.
"When we talk about diversity at AT&T, we're talking about tapping all the talent available. We want people to use their knowledge to move the business forward," says Emilio Egea, AT&T's human resources director and diversity manager. "We learned a long time ago that we need everybody to be successful."
AT&T has integrated diversity concepts into various parts of its business missions, policies, training and goals.
"All activities are linked to the success of the business. It is not diversity for diversity's sake," Mr. Egea says.
Mr. Egea, a Hispanic who's been with AT&T for more than 20 years, has seen significant changes in how the company uses its human resources.
The marketer developed its Diversity Quality Council in 1990, which included top executives and representatives of various employee groups.
The council launched the company's diversity strategy in January 1994 with four goals: awareness and understanding of diverse people; involvement in various communities; support of minority and women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs; and improvement of the diversity of AT&T's work force.
Diversity objectives are tied to goals of specific departments. The company polls employees annually and asks diversity-related questions. AT&T's business training school also has diversity situations and concepts built into each class-as well as offering a course based solely on diversity issues.
"When we talk about objectives, we also have objectives for whites as well. Our diversity policy is an inclusive program," Mr. Egea says.
The company also features Business Resource Groups for African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, women, the disabled and gays and lesbians. Originally employee advocacy groups, these units-open to anyone in the company-are staffed by volunteers who put on various events and conferences.
According to Mr. Egea, the plan works. Of the 200 senior-level managers at AT&T in 1984, 2% were women and 0.5% were minorities. By 1993, both groups jumped to 6%. And in 1995, 12% of senior-level managers were women and another 12% were minorities.
"It was not too difficult" to boost these percentages, Mr. Egea says. "When the dominant figures of the culture are involved, people take notice."
AT&T Chairman Robert E. Allen regularly speaks about diversity at public events.
"Once considered a social mandate, [AT&T's diversity program] is now a strategic business asset. Once confined to the purchasing department, it is now embedded in the business plans of every AT&T division and business unit," Mr. Allen says. "Put simply, diversity embraced equates to sales increased."
Bill Rojas, national marketing manager for International Consumer Long Distance, praises AT&T for recognizing "not everyone in this country speaks only English."
Mr. Rojas, born in Latin America, says his cultural experience helped the company understand the differences in Latin American countries enough that a 1996 price promotion called for four separate TV spots for the Mexican, Colombian, Dominican and Brazilian audiences.
"We sent the same message, but we sent it with four different tastes," Mr. Rojas says.
Anderson Chung, a division manager in marketing communications for AT&T Multicultural Advertising, says the company sees everyone as a potential user.
"If we look at the U.S. population, it has diversified in the past 10 years more than it ever has," Mr. Chung says, noting that more than 4% of AT&T's work force is made up of Asians/Pacific Islanders-more than the general population.
MANAGES ASIAN MARKETS
Mr. Chung, who is Chinese- American, manages advertising and direct mail for Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Asian-Indian markets.
"These programs are managed much more efficiently if they are managed by a person of that ethnicity. It ensures we are doing the right things," Mr. Chung says.
Kevin Cummings, international marketing manager for International Consumer Long Distance, says AT&T's community involvement is improved because of his knowledge about African-American communities.
"This job allows me to create some win-win situations with my community. That allows me the drive to go to work every day, and then go home and look at myself in the mirror," Mr. Cummings says.
"In a broader sense, implementing diversity is more about changing culture. But we also talk about tapping specific groups and strengths of the individuals," Mr. Egea says. "A company that reflects the diversity of its customers is more likely to serve and compete."