“Inclusion is not just ‘nice to do.’ It’s a must do! The first step is to help people within your organization understand why diversity is a business imperative and how it contributes to your company’s success. Once employees see this, your diversity efforts and activities won’t be just another task on the list of things to do— it will be seen as a means to accomplish that list.”
“At BellSouth, we believe that a diverse and inclusive environment is not only the right thing to do, it’s also critical to maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace,” said F. Duane Ackerman, chairman and CEO, BellSouth.
Mr. Ackerman builds on this essential premise of BellSouth’s commitment to diversity by emphasizing that “we have long embraced inclusion as a strategic business imperative. We believe diversity is the right thing to do, so it’s not hard to build a business case for it.” Mr. Ackerman concentrates his leadership in the commitment to diversity on “diversity being an integral part of our mission to create shareholder value” where “an important part of building—and proving—a business case for inclusion is demonstrating the correlation between focused diversity efforts and company results.”
This combined commitment to the business bottom line, and the inclusion of the diverse backgrounds represented within the BellSouth team, has brought forth recognition and praise from business and minority communities. BellSouth has: won the NAACP Corporate Image Award (awarded for exemplary business practices and public service); been named in Fortunemagazine’s “50 Best Companies for Asians, Blacks and Hispanics” for several consecutive years; was honored by Hispanic Magazineas one of its “Corporate 100: The One Hundred Companies Providing the Most Opportunities to Hispanics;” and garnered several awards from the national legal community on its advocacy for diversity within corporate legal departments and law firms.
BellSouth’s dedicated commitment to diversity specifically shines under the leadership of Charles Morgan, general counsel of BellSouth, who has been recognized as a national catalyst for diversity within the legal profession. Mr. Morgan authored the Diversity Statement of Principle, which has currently been adopted by more than 470 general counsel of major corporations. The statement reads: “We expect the law firms which represent our companies to work actively to promote diversity within their workplace. In making our respective decisions concerning selection of outside counsel, we will give significant weight to a firm’s commitment and progress in this area.”
Not only has this statement made a visible difference in BellSouth’s business case for diversity, but it has impacted the business case for diversity for law firms nationwide.
While BellSouth continues to execute its business and organizational commitment to diversity, Mr. Ackerman reflects on the journey as a “humbling effort…This is a journey, not a destination; we’re still learning and we’ll continue to make additional strides.” He advises other chief executive officers that: “Your commitment must start at the top—with you. I think the first step toward developing diversity as a core value is awareness and education.”