Widening the net for empowerment across the globe

How are you seeing the situation changing for diversity in the industry?

There continues to be an evolution, and an increase in awareness and education. Firms across the globe like Verizon are looking for opportunities to continue developing programmes within their businesses. Indeed, in last year’s annual Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging [DIB] report by the ITW Global Leaders’ Forum, 89% of respondents said DIB was a top strategic priority for their company – an encouraging demonstration of widespread support for initiatives.

One result of the pandemic has been the rise of hybrid working policies. Due to the greater flexibility they allow, such policies have the potential if carefully crafted to support the greater inclusion of women and minorities in the workforce throughout the entire talent pipeline.

How have things been advancing in this area at Verizon Partner Solutions [VPS]?

VPS benefits from the many DEI initiatives that Verizon has in place. At VPS itself, one initiative I’m particularly proud of is a women’s empowerment group that I helped start in late 2022. As an annual program, we have now just started a second cohort that this time includes both men and women. Anyone who’s interested in having peer-networking opportunities, or in mentoring or advocating for others, is welcome.

We opened it up as there was much interest and demand from other team members. Further, the more education and awareness there is of gender-bias dynamics in the workplace, the more you’re going to help every type of inclusion. For me, the fact that other people who heard about the group wanted to get involved and expand the conversation was the biggest compliment to the initiative.

At Verizon, we believe that embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do but a competitive advantage. We come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs and face different experiences that mould and shape who we are. Our diversity makes us stronger and better prepared to serve our customers and communities. That’s why we’re committed to hiring and developing diverse talent, and fostering an inclusive culture in which everyone feels empowered to bring their authentic self to work.

Last year, we introduced a new leadership principle, ‘Foster Inclusion’, to reinforce the importance of embedding inclusion in how we lead and support our people. We also have 10 global employee resource groups that promote inclusion throughout Verizon by elevating diverse voices, fostering professional development and raising cultural awareness.

Further, as Verizon, we’ve spent over $50 billion on goods and services with diverse suppliers over the last 10 years, including businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, people in the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities.

What happens in the empowerment group?

Each mentee has a mentor that they meet up with about once a month, and can talk to about matters involving inclusion and opportunities for skills and career development. We also have quarterly sessions in which we bring in speakers from our learning and development team, and ensure that everyone has a chance to speak about a variety of topics focused on DEI and other skills-development training.

We’re paying the initiative forward too. If you were a mentee in the first year, you were asked if you wanted to be a mentor in the second year. That gives us a wider set of mentors available to support people over time.

How do you see things going forward with diversity in the industry?

Things are continuing to get better, but there’s always going to be more to do. Particularly with the rise of AI, we need to be proactively ensuring that algorithms fully represent the diversity of the population and that everybody’s voice is included. We therefore all need to continue to upskill and actively provide opportunities for everybody to contribute.

But we also all need to start where we are: we’re at different points in the journey, and we need to acknowledge that while seeking to move forward. Ultimately, there’s an opportunity that I’m optimistic about for us as an industry to develop more initiatives, and continue to drive advocacy across the globe for diversity and empowerment for all.


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