A little over seven months ago, Charter Communications, Inc. tapped Rhonda Crichlow to be its Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer. Responsible for helping shape Charter’s strategic development efforts and implementing its diversity and inclusion initiatives (D&I), Crichlow is charged with helping to lead the nation’s second largest cable company into a bold and bright new future.
After starting her career first as a law clerk and then transitioning into a tax law practice, Crichlow entered the world of diversity and inclusion as a consultant on the Pigford v. Glickman and Brewington v. Glickman class action litigations brought by African American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She then spent 10 years at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, where she ultimately led the Novartis US Foundation and D&I practice. Her formative experiences are what frame Crichlow’s vision and orientation at Charter, where she strives to “be a trusted advisor, creat[e] a forum where people can have difficult, non-judgmental dialogue, and think about how diversity and inclusion is really important from a business perspective.”
In contemplating what D&I will look like for Charter, Crichlow views her work through two primary lenses: “We just completed a fairly significant merger, and the footprint of the company [which has nearly doubled in the last year] creates an incredible, unique opportunity from an internal perspective relative to our employee base – making sure we’re doing a good job at recruiting, attracting, retaining and developing a diverse workforce,” she recently told Politic365 in an exclusive interview.
“From a customer standpoint,” Crichlow continued,”when you think about the demographics in some of the regions and major cities where we have a fairly significant presence, our customer base is exceptionally diverse, and our ability to continue to successfully offer products and services that support our customers, and work with companies that provide content relevant to those audiences are high priorities.”
Crichlow explained that managing Charter’s internal and external diversity and inclusion efforts is a multi-lateral, multi-stakeholder task. For instance, by the end of this year, Charter will present its External Diversity and Inclusion Council, led by National Urban League CEO Marc Morial, with a 3-5 year strategy outlining the ways it will improve D&I both internally through employee attraction, retention, and training, as well as externally through its supplier/vendor, programmatic, and philanthropic efforts.
One of Crichlow’s challenges is creating a common culture and nomenclature surrounding D&I for Charter, which last year merged with Time Warner Cable and acquired Bright House Networks. “The legacy companies were in very different places around diversity and inclusion,” she said. “Each company had a D&I a footprint, but we have to build and educate the organization around the same principles and concepts, and explain why D&I is important.” Among the ways Charter is tackling this task is through the creation of its Executive Steering Committee, which is comprised of 95% of the company’s executive leadership. “Their goal is to help us identify where they see key areas of opportunity for us to focus on, and help us build a strategy that’s very aligned with our business objectives,” Crichlow said.
As she continues to embark on the journey toward crafting Charter’s D&I approach, Crichlow keeps community, culture, and consistency front of mind: “I want to ensure that when we talk about the company we aspire to be, our customers and employees perceive Charter’s commitment to D&I similarly, and avoid a disconnect between our external and internal reputation,” Crichlow said. “Ultimately, we want a culture and D&I strategy that our employees are proud of, which will enable us to further advance our business goals.”