How high should expectations be for a Fortune 100 company to make significant diversity, equity, and inclusion inroads for both the employees and the communities it serves?
No enterprise-level company can claim the work is complete, but Comcast is moving closer than most toward this important mission.
For LatinX/Hispanic communities and employees in California, there are many success stories for Comcast to tell.
Rigoberto (Rigo) Topete serves as Area Vice President of Field Operations for the South Valley of California. Prior to that, Topete was Director of Retail Sales for California, having been recruited as a student at Merritt Community College in Oakland and starting off as a call center representative.
Currently, in California, Comcast provides internet, TV, and phone service for the Bay Area inland to Sacramento, points north as far as Chico, and the area Topete serves in the central South Valley. Within this service footprint, there are many historically underserved, rural communities – often with a large Hispanic/LatinX population – where Comcast is expanding service and providing high-speed internet for people in lower income categories.
Topete shared his experience at a recent Comcast event in Biola, Calif. This was part of a wider effort Comcast has been making in support of this Fresno County community.
“I was so fortunate to put together an event to announce an expansion of service,” he says. “We donated 200 laptops to one of the local elementary schools. It was so humbling to be out there making this tangible difference in the lives of those kids and their families.”
“In the communities that we do serve that are low income or income constrained, we’ve partnered with local organizations to provide locations where students and family members can walk into a library and login to free Wi-Fi so that they can do their homework.”
All of this is part of Comcast’s long-running Internet Essentials program, as well as the more targeted Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Internet Essentials brings 50 megs of high-speed internet to qualified families for $9.95 a month.
“That’s more than enough for folks to be able to do things like homework, do a job search, or take care of bills online,” Topete says.
Topete’s involvement in the nationwide initiatives highlights the community-based approach Comcast is taking in leveraging these larger-scale programs.
How does a layered identity that includes LatinX/Hispanic heritage impact one’s work at Comcast?
“When I first started working at Comcast nearly 20 years ago, honestly, there were not many people on staff at any level who looked like me,” Topete recalls. “Since then, Comcast has made huge strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Topete sees a lot more diversity in roles through the ranks, right up to people like him at the VP level and higher. The shift Topete experienced did not happen by accident or without intentional work. For instance, Lennies Gutierrez, the Director of Government Affairs at Comcast in California, has been with the company for over a dozen years and brings expertise and experience in leading diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and at the State level.
“I was just on the phone with a group, including Rigo, around this topic recently,” Gutierrez shares. “Being a member of the LatinX community in a Fortune 30 company can be intimidating. I’m glad we are creating spaces so that employees can be themselves.”
One of the reasons Topete has been at Comcast for so long is because “I feel I have the opportunity to be my authentic self. This has helped so much in finding confidence. Authenticity leads to confidence, which allows you to perform at your best.”
While conversations like these are critical, there are formal ways of getting diversity, equity, and inclusion work accomplished.
“For instance, during Hispanic Heritage Month, we are hosting an event called ‘Latinas Breaking Barriers,’” Gutierrez says. The event will feature a panel of Latinas in business and within Comcast, showcasing their career trajectories.
“Each path is so different, and having the opportunity to connect in this way is so important,” Gutierrez says.
Beyond the workforce at Comcast, Gutierrez also spoke about the Comcast RISE program. Comcast RISE is a grant initiative offering marketing and technology support to small businesses that are at least 51% owned and operated by someone who identifies as a person of color, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian American owners or a woman.
“Being able to promote a program like Comcast RISE to small business owners is really a fantastic opportunity for us to recognize what businesses have been through during the pandemic,” Gutierrez says. “Here’s a program where you can have access to a technology makeover; here is a program where if you need help with advertising, you can apply for a grant.”
Currently, the Comcast RISE program is accepting applications from qualified small businesses in California through October 16, and those businesses registered in Oakland, Calif., may also qualify to receive a $10,000 grant through the Investment Fund.
In addition, Comcast provides a Comcast RISE business directory where individuals can locate and support Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian American, and women-owned businesses in California.
The task of corporations to elevate the contributions of diverse employees within the company and in their interactions with the communities they represent continues daily.
Comcast, however, is demonstrating today how corporate culture can evolve over time, showing a genuine commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion – while expanding its network and offering new opportunities to underserved communities across the country.