AT&T’s chief diversity officer and senior vice president of talent development visited Webster University last week, and her talk to a packed audience in the East Academic Building created a thought-provoking context as Webster prepares for its first Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit later this month.
Debbie Storey leads talent development for a Fortune 10 company that has some 230,000 employees, including 90,000 managers across 60 countries, and the largest full-time unionized workforce in the country. In her nearly 30 years with the telecom company, she’s seen the expression of diversity for employees and consumers in a variety of contexts. She’s also forged a clear philosophy on what it means.
“A diverse workforce is inevitable,” she said. “So creating an inclusive workforce is critical. That means everyone must feel welcome, safe and valued.”
Webster University President Beth Stroble invited Storey to campus as part of the “Contemporary Conversations for a Connected World Series.” In her introduction of Storey, Stroble touched on the theme of inclusive excellence.
“The imperative in both business and in higher education is to go beyond welcoming a diverse community of learners and employees and to assure their excellence,” Stroble said.
“A vision of inclusive excellence is based on the premise that excellence is not truly possible without inclusion. It means every individual being tapped for his or her unique individual strengths to build a stronger community.”
A Competitive Advantage
In her address, Storey said diversity isn’t just good practice for a company that tries to be everywhere for consumers; it’s also a competitive advantage. She pointed to research that showed diverse teams outperform homogenous teams even when the collective I.Q. of the homogenous team is higher.
Despite the emphasis on diversity, building a diverse team is no easy challenge for large companies like AT&T. With the changes in technology and the U.S. population not reproducing at a sustainable replacement birth rate, the demand for skilled workers is increasing while the availability of this workforce is dropping.
To that end, Storey also outlined what her company is looking from college graduates, a set of skills and competencies that is seems to amplify the importance of Webster’s new Global Citizenship Program.
Specifically, Storey said her company is looking for:
- the right functional workplace skills, work ethic and values
- STEM degrees
- solid writing and presentation skills
- the ability to collaborate and work on a team
- critical thinking skills for a fast-paced business environment
- emotional maturity; good citizens
- commitment to diversity and sustainability
You can watch the video of Storey’s visit below. And watch Webster Today for forthcoming information on Webster’s upcoming Feb. 28 Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit.