Jonathan Spalter

Continuing the March To Diversity and Inclusion

Next week is “Diversity Week” in the United States. If the events of the past year—or past several decades—are any indicator, then diversity week should be every week. Every corner of our society would benefit from a more consistent focus on greater equity and inclusion.

As someone who spent some of my final pre-COVID days marching with the late John Lewis on his final pilgrimage in Selma, diversity is woven into my sense of what it means to be American. We are stronger for our differences. We are mightier for the range of our ideas and backgrounds. And, we are more resilient as a nation when we find ways to appreciate, respect and truly value the many parts that make up our United States.

I am proud to represent a set of companies that have long prioritized not only diversity, but also equity and inclusion—up and down their own ranks, as well as in the vast ecosystem of suppliers that bring our infrastructure-intensive work to life. At USTelecom, our members literally are in the business of connecting our communities – our neighbors, families and enterprises – across distance and difference – no matter where, no matter what.

Whether the lens is USTelecom, the tech industry or our nation as a whole, we can always do more to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. Viewing this work as not a single task to be checked off a list—but a living, daily, ongoing commitment—is how we “form a more perfect union.” We can do better in ensuring the people we hire, the people who lead our organizations and the partnerships we forge reflect these values. And, perhaps most impactful for The Broadband Association, we can make a genuine difference for the entire nation in the challenges we tackle.

USTelecom has long led the call for a public-private partnership to ensure every person in America—from the Mississippi Delta to remote tribal lands—is connected to the essential modern infrastructure of broadband. We also must do far more together to ensure no student in this country has to sit in a fast food parking lot to receive their education.

We also make progress by encouraging frank, honest and proactive dialogue and training around how to have a more inclusive and equitable workplace. This is why I expect you will hear many in the private sector express their concern with the recent White House Executive Order that imposes limitations on federal contractor and grantee training and will have a chilling effect on valuable diversity, inclusion and bias programming in the workplace.

Here in America, we don’t run from our challenges. We face them head on. This means owning up to some difficult truths around the persistent structural and systemic disparities that are fueling a long overdue social justice reckoning in our nation. This Administration has taken many actions to show its support for the private sector. This Executive Order undercuts that approach. It should trust companies to engage and educate their employees in ways that are effective and appropriate.

As for USTelecom, our membership and our association will remain committed to genuinely putting our shoulder to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our operations and work. We also will continue to take appropriate, proactive steps to engage, educate and encourage our workforce, partners and stakeholders to understand and uphold these core values.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental American values. They should be taught. They should be embraced. They should be celebrated. History shows that we have not always upheld them. But our present and future insist that each of us can and must continue the march forward.