My entire life – from choosing to play high school basketball, to studying chemical engineering and entering the workforce – I’ve wanted to prove a point. Girls and women can conquer any challenge put in front of them. As an athlete, I wanted to compete against anyone, not just the girls I played with. In my career, I chose the most challenging engineering specialty. It also happened to be dominated by men.

I had something to prove, and along the way I connected with other women who felt the same. We built a community that supported our ambitions. We knew that we would go further, together.

At a time when women continue to face challenges affecting our everyday lives and opportunities, I believe that now’s the time to be inspired by those who paved the way for us. And again, we can rise together. If history has taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate the strength and bond of our community.

As I reflect on the current climate, I am reminded of something my mother would tell me and my sister throughout our childhood: “This too shall pass.” As a single mother raising two girls in Michigan, my mom showed me the power of independence. She showed me that you can do anything you set your mind to, even when all odds are against you. The message she gave me growing up, and one I still apply to everything I do, is this: “Finish what you start and do everything with excellence, humility and a human-centered spirit.”

It’s that human-centered spirit that I have found to be a common trait in the women and allies I’ve met and worked with along the way.


Michelle Jordan standing alongside her mother,
Mary Mathious-Crosby

My journey has also been influenced by men who have shown up in meaningful ways. Growing up, Mr. John Pugh was a beacon of support in my community.  He helped me and countless others cover tuition expenses when the money simply wasn’t there. Earlier in my career, a former boss poured years of knowledge and experience into me. He ensured I was included in discussions and had a seat at the table so that when his retirement came, I would be next in line to lead. 


Michelle Jordan with Mr. John Pugh

When I began my career at AT&T, it was a woman who hired me. She showed me what an inclusive environment truly feels like. She made me feel welcome.  And she took the time to ensure I was set up for success at every level.

While I believe confidence and a can-do spirit propel us as individuals, it’s our collective strength that keeps the momentum going. With their mentorship, I’ve been able to show the power of women, without having to conform to a stereotype about how to achieve success or how to be considered a strong leader.

A few years ago, I was on a panel with Ava Duvernay. She shared a message that really resonated with me: “Focus on the work.” In one way or another, the women and allies I’ve crossed paths with have shown me that real progress happens when you focus on the work.  And when you are faced with challenges, we must learn from our approach and continue to lead with intention and purpose.

I know the path was well-trod before I got here. I’m grateful to the women who came before me, and the men who helped along the way. They’re my inspiration and encouragement as I step into my new role. When I think about my legacy, I’m committed to doing the work for women’s equality. Our next generation of women leaders should be empowered, and their opportunities endless.

It’s with this mindset that now, as AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer, I am intentional about recognizing the work that’s been done.  I believe it is my purpose to be the amplifier of those working beside me, ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion continue to change the workplace experience for the better. And that’s better for everyone. When one person excels, we all become smarter, show up more authentically and ultimately, win together.

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Michelle Jordan
Michelle Jordan Chief Diversity Officer at AT&T