“I think having multiple points of view and making sure that you’re supporting a more diverse leadership structure absolutely helps you,” Stacy Schwartz, vice president of Global Public Safety at AT&T, said of having diversity at the executive level of a business.
Schwartz shared with Women of Washington hosts Aileen Black and Gigi Schumm that she thought AT&T’s diversity at the executive level, not just in hiring women, but in all aspects of diversity, contributes to the success of their business.
“I think that does give us a competitive advantage, because we’re coming in to support our customers and their mission with differing points of view,” she said.
AT&T’s Public Safety business was not always as diverse as it is today, Schwartz shared. “When I took on the current role that I have now, several years ago, my team wasn’t diverse,” she said.
Schwartz believed that her team would benefit from having different points of view and backgrounds, so she has made an effort to hire diversely. “I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to — for the right people, and the right reasons and the right qualities — foster a spirit of diversity,” she said.
“We needed new thinking. We’re in technology. We needed folks that had different viewpoints on how to use technology and how to develop solutions,” she said.
Although Schwartz has more than 20 years’ experience total with AT&T, she left AT&T partway through her career and worked in global marketing for a time. She said that leaving AT&T and working in other countries allowed her to gain perspective and appreciate diversity in other cultures.
“I got to see how businesses are run in other countries. It’s very different. The position of women is very different, and I learned that I could not impose my cultural beliefs about how women should fit and support into a diverse management structure in other countries,” she said.
Schwartz added, “When I went into a business environment I was very sensitive to how other women wanted to aspire within their own cultures, because it’s not the same everywhere.”
Schwartz explained her return to AT&T, saying, “One of the things that lured me back to AT&T is that over time, AT&T has really evolved as a company, and it is extraordinarily global. It’s diverse in its businesses, and it gives you the opportunity to try different things. Also, I enjoy being in Washington, and being here I got to join the public sector business and reconnect with where my passion is, which is being around the government.”
She also discussed how working as a woman in IT has changed over the years. One area that had improved, Schwartz said, was work-life balance. However, she also emphasized that work-life balance is not only something women deal with.
She recommended that today’s executive women need to educate both young women and young men in how to manage work and family life, saying, “Mentor young men to understand what goes on when you’re balancing your work and personal life.”
She continued, “It’s not just banding together as women that helps create a culture of work life balance, but having an understanding management structure that understands that balance is important too.”
‘Listen to your gut, be kind, and try really hard’
Gigi Schumm welcomes Washington's most ambitious and influential female executives to share their secrets to success. Contact Gigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to Women of Washington’s audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.