CABLE LEADERS: DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION
Diversity is important, in all parts of U.S. society. No longer do we limit such conversations to Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month or other specific times of the year. In our industry, cable companies have made diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) key components of their culture, mission and practices.
Two leaders in this field – Teresa Ward-Maupin, senior vice president, digital and customer experience, Comcast Business, and Donna Chatman, vice president of Sparklight’s South Central Division – share why DE&I is an important focus for their companies, and how their efforts have evolved.
Ward-Maupin is a senior executive with over 20 years in the digital, mobile and telecommunication industries. She joined Comcast in 2015 and now oversees the digital and customer experience strategy and execution across Comcast Business. She is the executive sponsor of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for Comcast Business and was appointed to the Comcast Cable DE&I Council leading the launch of Comcast RISE, a program to support minority-owned SMB business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chatman is responsible for overall operations of Sparklight’s systems in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. She joined Sparklight in 1996 and has served in a number of positions, including general manager of the company’s Arkansas systems and of the Columbus, Mississippi, system. She also has been a customer service manager, regional sales manager, sales & marketing manager, lead CSR and data control specialist.
Q: Explain your role in your company’s DE&I focus.
In my primary role at Comcast, I serve as senior vice president of digital and customer experience, where I oversee the digital and customer experience strategy and execution across our business services division, Comcast Business. I also serve as the executive sponsor of the Diversity and Inclusion committee for Comcast Business and was appointed to the Comcast Cable DE&I Council and led the launch of Comcast RISE.
Comcast RISE – which stands for “Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment” – offers grants, marketing and technology upgrades, including media campaigns and connectivity, computer and voice equipment, as well as free marketing insights. With Comcast RISE, we set out to determine how we can make the biggest impact, not just during this moment in time but to help businesses recover and prosper for the long term. We are focused on truly lifting businesses up.
I serve as a mentor to associates, as well as member of our Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board. The focus of the I&D Board is to research, develop and propose mechanisms that will help create and sustain a supportive, positive and
inclusive work environment for all associates in our organization.
Q: Why is DE&I an important focus for a cable company?
We know that a diverse, equitable and inclusive company is a more innovative and successful one. That’s why we embrace diversity of background, perspective, culture and experience throughout every aspect of our business. We believe in fostering a better and more accepting workplace; one where employees are encouraged to be their authentic selves and have equal opportunities for hiring and career progression.
Companies that focus on DE&I gain a clearer representation of the customers they serve. This enables companies to give back to and have a direct and lasting impact on the communities they serve.
Diversity lies in the communities we serve and among our associates, who are an intricate part of our success. Creating a culture where all feel safe, welcome and heard reflects our company values of doing right by those we serve – which includes both our associates and our customers.
Every facet of the business benefits when DEI is a focus. Our associates are happier, they’re engaged and are comfortable being their true selves. Efforts around inclusion and diversity have shown to lead to:
- Increased job satisfaction and trust levels
- Collaboration and innovation
- Increased revenue
Q: How has your company’s attention to these issues evolved in recent years? What are its goals in these areas?
Comcast has proudly supported these efforts over the years through programs such as Internet Essentials – the largest internet adoption program in the nation. Launched in 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 8 million low-income Americans to all the opportunities of a digital world through low-cost, high-speed internet at home. Additionally, for years we have been committed to helping thousands of organizations supporting underrepresented communities through our Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation and social impact programs.
On top of these efforts, Comcast NBCUniversal announced in June the development of a comprehensive, multiyear plan to allocate $75 million in cash and $25 million in media over the next three years to fight injustice and inequality against any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or ability.
Recent progress in this overarching effort includes the Comcast RISE program I mentioned – designed to help thousands of BIPOC-owned small businesses impacted by COVID-19; NBC’s “The More You Know” series which speaks out against systemic racism and speaks up for social justice equality and equity; Comcast’s new Lift Zones – more than 1,000 sites equipped with high-capacity WIFI, located in community centers across the country and designed to provide connectivity and learning spaces to students who lack safe or secure home environments in this era of distance learning; as well as, Comcast’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Speaker Series which is designed to educate and inspire Comcast employees through a monthly series featuring scholars, thought leaders, bestselling authors, and expert speakers discussing a variety of diversity and inclusion topics from racism to allyship.
As a whole, Comcast believes in supporting and strengthening businesses and creating sustainable positive impact for those owners. This was a unique opportunity to leverage the platform, tools and services we already have in a way that supports these communities where they need it most.
Sparklight, as part of the Cable One family of brands, is taking short- and long-term actions to develop and enhance a culture of respect and inclusion – one in which differences are valued and diverse viewpoints are welcomed.
These efforts were expanded over the past year with the creation of our I&D Board, which is made up of associates from across our organization, ranging from frontline associates to members of management. Events, courses and activities hosted by our I&D Board are intended to raise awareness, build empathy, and engage associates in conversations regarding diversity.
We have released an Allyship Guide, which serves as a pathway for those who desire to stand up and show support for others, and launched learning and engagement strategies, such as unconscious bias training. Additionally, we have donated to organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative as well as EmbraceRace, which is dedicated to identifying and creating the tools, resources and networks to support a movement of child and adult racial injustice advocates. Our continuing partnership with this organization has also led to associate engagement around the topics of social injustice.