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Survey Affirms AT&T as Industry Leader on the Issue of Diversity

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The news last month was dominated by AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. The proposed merger generated considerable debate within the civil rights and progressive communities, with some organizations, including many labor unions, strongly in favor and others, principally consumer advocates, deeply opposed. While NCLR did not take a position on the issue, in the aftermath of the controversy none of us should lose sight of something AT&T is doing very right--embracing diversity.

AT&T's strong record on diversity was confirmed in the most recent Corporate Inclusion Index (CII) released by the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR). HACR--of which I currently serve as Chair--is a 25-year-old coalition made up of 16 of the leading national Latino organizations in the United States.

In the survey for 2011, AT&T tied for first place and received a "95" out of a possible "100," the highest score awarded by HACR. The report notes that nearly half of AT&T's workforce is female or a person of color, with one of the highest percentages of Latinos--12 percent--of any company. It maintains generally good relations with its heavily unionized workforce, and it maintains and supports strong employee affinity groups representing people of color, workers with disabilities, and LGBT employees.

AT&T also has one of the strongest global supplier diversity programs among the Fortune 100 and has made notable investments in recent years in Latino-owned businesses, the Hispanic consumer market, and in Hispanic philanthropy. And one of AT&T's most important diversity accomplishments has been the number of minority high-ranking executives, including one of the handful of Latino CEOs in the country, Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets.

"With their 2011 HACR CII rating, AT&T has raised the bar not only in the telecommunications industry, but for all Fortune 500 companies," said Carlos F. Orta, president and CEO of HACR.

"AT&T is committed to Hispanic inclusion as part of their business and CRS model, and that is reflected in their rating."

For those concerned about strengthening paths for upward economic mobility for all Americans, especially those traditionally left behind even during boom periods, AT&T's record is one ray of hope in an increasingly gloomy landscape. Increased corporate diversity will translate directly into greater upward mobility for many Hispanics. Similarly, supplier diversity gives Latino small businesses opportunities they might otherwise lose. And as the public sector jobs that once served as a bastion of economic opportunity for many women and people of color continue to shrink, corporate social responsibility becomes more important than ever.

There's no such thing as a perfect company, but AT&T is clearly an industry leader when it comes to the very important issue of increasing diversity, and thus promoting upward mobility, in corporate America. It is an example that other Fortune 500 companies should emulate now and in the future.