By Rick Wilson, Director – Diversity & Inclusion, AT&T
An AT&T time capsule from 1987 would reveal a heartfelt long-distance commercial with the memorable tagline “Reach out—reach out and touch someone.” Wireless phones were big, boxy devices. And within the company, employees were set to launch a groundbreaking employee resource group (ERG) known as LEAGUE at AT&T.
It’s been 30 years since LEAGUE (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies Employee Organizations of AT&T) was formed, making it one of the oldest LGBT ERGs in the nation.
Technology changes and evolves. Communication has never been easier and more mobile.
Another thing that’s evolved, for the better, is attitudes about diversity and inclusion. This year, a record 515 companies earned a 100 rating on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). That’s the largest jump in the number of businesses achieving a 100 percent rating in the ENTIRE history of the CEI.
For AT&T, it’s not news. We have earned a perfect score for the past 14 years. That’s because AT&T made diversity one of its core values long ago. Nowhere is this more evident than in our company’s support of LGBT employees. We have diligently promoted diversity and prohibited discrimination toward the LGBT community inside and outside of AT&T.
Here are a few examples:
• In 1975, AT&T became one of the first major American corporations to adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation.
•In 1998, AT&T adopted one of the first domestic partner benefits programs for LGBT employees.
• In 2006, we were one of the first U.S. corporations to offer transgender-inclusive health care benefits.
• In 2015, AT&T was one of hundreds of employers who signed onto a “friends of the court” brief at the U.S. Supreme Court to support the business case for marriage equality.
AT&T is sharing the spirit of diversity and support for LGBT issues and causes through its fifth annual Live Proud campaign from June 1 through July 31. The program encourages the LGBT community to declare “We Are Bold.” It recognizes the power of being authentically you and the importance of living with pride.
On a somber note, on the June 12 anniversary of the 2016 Orlando, Fla., tragedy, AT&T’s Live Proud website provided an opportunity to share a message of healing.
Thirty years ago, a group of AT&T employees started LEAGUE at AT&T. The ERG now has 25 chapters and more than 6,700 members. Last year alone, LEAGUE at AT&T gave back to the community with more than 17,560 volunteer hours at 696 events.
The LEAGUE AT&T Youth Mentoring Program gives members a way to engage with the LGBT community to help improve the life of a teen. Its transgender discussion group enables members to share resources and discuss workplace transition issues.
And the LEAGUE Foundation awards college scholarships to LGBT youth. Since 1999, the foundation has awarded over $200,000 to students.
LEAGUE’s executive sponsor, Ken McNeely, provides a particularly appropriate voice for LGBT issues. McNeely is president of AT&T California, and the highest ranking “out” leader of the company. He explains that there is a significant upside for companies to advance LGBT workplace equality.
“I see LGBT executives moving from middle range to senior range, and starting to run major corporations across America,” McNeely said. “That is a wonderful turn of events. Not only that, they can do so while being out and proud. That’s a remarkable accomplishment in a very short time. It shows that the business community has been at the forefront of honoring talent and allowing you to be your authentic self and understanding all of that is in the business’s interest.”
These milestones illustrate a commitment to equality and a broader commitment to diversity. We are proud of our record and the recognition from esteemed publications like DiversityInc, which this spring named AT&T one of the Top Companies for LGBT Employees.
That’s the power of diversity – and a company that celebrates the differences that make us better together.
Rick J. Wilson, director – diversity & inclusion, leads AT&T’s global corporate diversity segment strategy, which includes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally community. In this role, he helped craft AT&T’s segment strategy from the ground up — being the first director named to this position. And with over 20 years of progressive business and leadership experience, he and his team lead, consult and drive a variety of initiatives that support AT&T’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion. Rick holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from John Carroll University and a master’s in labor relations and human resources from Cleveland State University.