Leading By Example: Verizon and its Quest for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Pam Sornson, JD

The Pasadena City College Economic and Workforce Development department (PCC EWD) was so proud to have Verizon as the sponsor of its 2nd annual Future of Work Conference, “Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Workforce Development;” (watch the rebroadcast here). The telecommunications giant sent two representatives, Jesus Roman, Verizon’s Associate General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs, and Dr. Erica Jacquez, its Executive Director External and Government Affairs, to share their wisdom and experience with the event’s many Zoom attendees. Not only are both of those contributors incredible leaders for inclusion and diversity in their own right, but so is the company for which they work. Read on …

 

Thought Leadership, the Verizon Way

Both Mr. Roman and Dr. Jacquez came to the conference bringing their years of civic leadership with them, having advised and contributed to policy development for both corporate and government entities. Their messages to the attendees shared Verizon’s intent to support and encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of the communities in which it works and help every community achieve its highest levels of success, especially through its workforce development investments. The examples they gave were enlightening:

 

Verizon’s Commitment to Inclusive Connectivity

Mr. Roman noted that Verizon’s commitment to all communities flows through its efforts to advance wireless connectivity to every neighborhood that doesn’t yet have that resource. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the significance of that reality when it became apparent that thousands of local school children couldn’t attend virtual school because they didn’t have the necessary digital connections. Dr. Jasquez added that the fires and earthquakes also showed how remote communities suffer greater losses when first responders can’t connect to their resources. Verizon responded to these challenges by providing ‘hot spots’ in those remote or unconnected areas to facilitate the digital presence.

 

 

Verizon’s Commitment to Diversity

The company also leads through its diversity policies and practices. Its numbers tell that story:

Its workforce is demonstrably diversified across racial and gender lines, with almost 60% of all of its workers and 50% of its Board of Directors being female or people of color.

Verizon looks outward, too, in its inclusion strategy and has spent over $50 billion over ten years to ensure a diversified supply chain keeps its operations humming.

Not insignificantly, the company also mandates 100% pay equity: equal pay for equal work. The figure is notable, considering that the median salary differential for all women and all men, the ‘uncontrolled gender pay gap‘ regardless of the job performed, is $.81 for each woman against the $1 earned by each man. (Even when the position and qualifications are the same, a woman is still paid, on average, two cents less than a man.)

 

Verizon’s Commitment to Workforce Development

Verizon’s expansion into the 5G universe is also driving its commitment to workforce development to higher heights. Described by Mr. Roman as the ‘4th Industrial Revolution,’ 5G (5th generation) technology is about to transform the world, providing users with faster connections, more data transmission, and exponentially improved efficiencies. The technology will facilitate the implementation and usage of all the innovations emerging from the Internet of Things (IoT), ‘smart’ communities, and – especially critical – immersive education opportunities. The organization will need a well-trained workforce to manage that growth and the subsequent growth it will spur.

Dr. Jacquez shared that Verizon is already deeply invested in assisting small companies in maintaining and developing the workforce they need to be competitive. During the pandemic, the company financed hundreds of small business grants to offset small business losses and provided reduced cost ‘hotspot’ devices to ensure unconnected students gain access to the Internet so they could continue learning from home. She also indicated that the telecom agency continues to look for ways to support students who aren’t sure of the career direction they want to take.

Conference attendees learned a lot from the contributions of the Verizon leaders. A review of the company’s expansive practices and policies around diversity, inclusion, and just plain good business is also instructive.

 

 

The Verizon Responsible Business Plan: Citizen Verizon

Designed to deliver tangible results across three pillars, Digital Inclusion, Climate Protection, and Human Prosperity, Verizon launched this exciting new initiative in July of 2020. The company sees itself as a ‘citizen of the world’ and therefore assumes a responsibility for generating positive impacts on today’s most pressing social issues. Those high principles are evidenced by the actions it’s pledged to pursue in the coming years:

To provide digital skills education opportunities for 10 million youth while supporting one million small businesses in their quest to thrive in the digital economy;

To reduce its emissions, increase its renewable energy investments, and utilize carbon offsets to become carbon neutral by 2035, and

To facilitate the skills training needed to prepare 500,000 people by 2030 for the jobs of the future.

 

Digital Inclusion

The Digital Inclusion initiative builds on its successful “Verizon Innovative Learning’” program, which has already helped over half a million students learn better and faster through reliable digital networks and connections. The program also supports teachers by providing them with lesson plans, partner content, and webinars to enhance their curricula and presentations. Through the Digital Inclusion strategy, those teachers will now be eligible for new teacher training pathways that enhance digital skills and online learning practices.   

Verizon employs comparably exceptional services to rural communities and small businesses, too.

 

Climate Protection

A work already in progress, the company is on track to achieve its goal of being 50% powered by renewable resources by 2025, which is a stepping stone towards its ultimate goal of being 100% carbon neutral by 2035. This initiative began when Verizon became the first American telecom company to issue a ‘Green Bond,’ raising almost $1 billion for its investments in energy efficiency, green buildings, sustainable water management, and renewable energy.

The company also invests in reforestation efforts, which is particularly timely, given the recent forest fires that have burned across so much of the country.

 

Human Prosperity

Everyone does better when everyone is doing better, which requires dedicated investments in closing the opportunity gaps that exist throughout American society. In October, Verizon partnered with the non-profit Generation to do just that by expanding access by American workers to digital skills training. An online program, the reskilling program leads learners down career pathways towards full-time employment in the digital trades, including web development, cloud management, IT help desk technology, and marketing analysis, to name just a few. Offered free to the learner, the program is intended to generate 500,000 skilled workers by 2030.

The program is already running in the United Kingdom where it is placing its graduates into jobs within three months of their graduation.

 

Leading Economic Development Initiatives into the 21st Century

The Citizen Verizon program is just the latest step in the company’s trajectory toward responsible leadership on a global scale, and its focus on improving the planet and the lives of the people who inhabit it has not gone unnoticed.

This year, the company was recognized as a global leader by three notable, international industry thinktanks:

Forbes ranked it as a leader in the “New Era of Responsible Capitalism,” raising it to the 19th position on its “Just 100” List. The List has included Verizon in three of its four years in existence.

Barrons named Verizon one of its top “100 Sustainable Companies” for 2020, noting that shares in these green-minded enterprises averaged a return of 34.3% in 2019 (out-doing the S&P by 2.8%).

And even the U.S. Environment Protection Agency acknowledged it as a Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence in Energy Management for 2020, noting how its services help its millions of consumers to conserve energy and protect the environment.

 

To too many people, Verizon is ‘just’ a great cell phone service provider. The PCC EWD is proud to showcase for them the full depth and breadth of the company’s investments in supporting workforce development efforts in every community in its quest to build a strong workforce while also building the sustainable environment in which it will work.

 

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