Portrait by Billy Surface

Business

Diversity Is Key to Developing Leaders

Cynt Marshall, senior vice president and chief diversity officer for AT&T, on why it matters.

“My second job in the company, I was an engineer. I had a boss in that job where I was the only woman on his team. They all treated me like a little sister; I was the youngest. And, you know, there’s a good aspect to that. But there’s also the aspect of, well, we’re going to keep you under our wing and not have you as an equal at the desk. I had a boss who wouldn’t go for that. He called me into his office almost every day, and back then he called me Cyndi. ‘Cyndi I want you to learn this. Cyndi I want you to learn that. Cyndi I want you to go to this training.’ He had me learning everything. … I ended up being his top person. His name is Norm McBride, I absolutely love Norm McBride. He said he didn’t really realize until his second staff meeting that I was the only woman on his team. He probably had 12 engineers. He said he sat in a meeting one day and thought, ‘This is going to be a true learning experience for her.’ Now, you could walk into any of our leadership development programs in any given year and find, you know, 50 to 60 percent women, 40 to 50 percent people of color. But even though the profile has changed, the kind of leaders that we have and the opportunities we provide people and the nurturing that we do, that has not changed. What Norm McBride did for me, people are doing all over our company right now: just making sure you’ve got that extra something to succeed in this business.”

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