AT&T Dials Up Increased Diversity in Suppliers

The Dallas-based telecom spent $13.7 billion on diversity suppliers in 2016.


AT&T spent $13.7 billion on diversity suppliers in 2015 and will shatter that record in 2016.

With AT&T being based in Dallas, it’s an opportunity for minority or woman-owned business owners to work with AT&T on corporate contracts, Oliver Turman, AT&T’s director of supplier diversity, said at the Diversity Entrepreneur event Thursday night. 

 “We know that diversity suppliers bring a lot of innovation and a lot of good ideas to the table.”
Oliver Turman

 “We know that diversity suppliers bring a lot of innovation and a lot of good ideas to the table,” Turman said. “People like us hire people like us. We want to see other minorities, other women gain opportunities. One of the biggest ways AT&T helps to impact that is through our diversity supplier program.”

Several hundred people attended the event at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (The DEC)in the West End to learn more about opportunities to get corporate and government contracts.

For AT&T, the acquisition of DirectTV and its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner will bring even more opportunity. Now that DirectTV is part of AT&T, the pie is bigger, meaning AT&T spent 19 percent of its budget on diversity suppliers.

The company’s goal is to increase that to at least 20 percent for 2017. Considering the company spent $70 billion on all suppliers in 2016, Turman said raising that just one percentage point will provide plenty of chances for minorities and women.

“That’s a lot of money. A lot of money. We want diversity suppliers to be a big part of that going forward,” Turman said.


Some things to remember, though, if you want to do business as a diversity supplier:

First, the company must be certified as a minority or woman-owned business by the Small Business Administration and other agencies.

Linda Ghaffari, founder and CEO of Affinity Strategic Partners, said her company helps small businesses navigate the world of corporate and government contracts.

For small companies just starting out, it would be best to work with Nokia or Erickson before working directly with a giant company like AT&T, Turman said.

Finally, companies have to bring innovation to the table, Turman said. IT suppliers are a dime a dozen so companies have to do something that stands out. 

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