How Executives Can Push for Inclusion and Diversity in Their Own Businesses

GE's Linda Boff and AT&T's Fiona Carter spoke on the subject at Adweek's NexTech event

Linda Boff, Fiona Carter and Lisa Granatstein speak during an Adweek NexTech conference panel
Linda Boff and Fiona Carter at a NexTech panel with Adweek's Lisa Granatstein Sean T. Smith for Adweek
Headshot of Diana Pearl

As the marketing chiefs for two of the country’s largest and best-known corporations, Linda Boff, CMO of GE, and Fiona Carter, chief brand officer of AT&T, wield a tremendous amount of influence over their respective organizations. And at Adweek’s NexTech Conference last week, in a panel led by Lisa Granatstein, editor, svp of programming at Adweek, both Boff and Carter expressed that they try to use that influence to empower their organizations to prioritize matters of diversity and inclusion.

“I have the power to make the change because I’m the approver,” said Carter.

Boff added that while those at the top carry a large responsibility, people at all levels can have an impact. “It is remarkable to me how everyone, no matter where you are in the organization, has the power to make moves,” she said. “A friend of mine at GE, one of our top scientists, gave me this that if she’s asked to be on a panel, she’ll only say yes if there’s at least one other woman on the panel. It’s just incredible what is in your control on a daily basis as well as what you can do to project out this message.”

“I sometimes think there’s frustration of ‘why can’t I do anything about it?'” added Boff. “Everyone can do something about it. Everyone can insist on slates when we’re interviewing that are 50% female. I try constantly and bring it to the individual level.”

Carter agrees, saying that making progress on this front is a combination of big, sweeping change and small, daily choices that shift standards.

“There is a philosophical intent: Are you committed to the goals?” said Carter. “There are macro actions, but micro actions matter. If you hire on achievement, not title and not tenure, you are making a difference in this world.”

Having diversity and inclusion at the forefront of your decisions is particularly important when it comes to making marketing decisions too, said Carter. The way marketers portray people in advertising has the power to “eliminate bias by reshaping the stereotypes in the images of what all of us can do,” she said.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.