Maria Arias

Executive Director, Diversity & inclusion
Comcast Corporation

My American dream began south of the border, took form in Chicago, marched out West to Denver, and continues today in America’s birthplace, Philadelphia.

Early in my childhood, my family moved from a small rural town in Mexico to South Chicago. We risked everything for the dream of building a better life. Growing up in a nondiverse neighborhood, I experienced discrimination in grammar and high school because I did not fit in. My English was solid and I did not have an accent, but I looked different and spoke Spanish. The worst experience was when the garage at our home was torched; not once, but twice.

Despite feeling ostracized, I found solace and strength in my family, my studies, and my jobs. Work provided a sense of accomplishment and financial independence. By seventh grade, tenaciousness gripped my spirit.

During college and later in my professional career, I overcame additional obstacles related to being female and an ethnic minority. But I did not allow these experiences to breed hate or cloud my focus. I accepted the challenge of disproving my naysayers, and I was determined to use the negative to fuel my dreams and eventually, to help others. This fighting spirit helped me stay focused, and I also was fortunate to encounter people who took the risk of hiring or mentoring someone who did not mirror their own image.

I succeeded in every professional role (as counsel for Adelphia and AT&T, and as a senior leader and vice president at Comcast), and I provided pivotal insights on the female and Hispanic markets. This combination of assets inclined many colleagues against judgment or doubt, and toward the benefits of diverse talent. With my hard work and the efforts of many colleagues, we are transforming the diversity risk factor into a smart business tactic for better understanding and valuing all aspects of an employee and client base.

My work and tenacity in overcoming personal obstacles has instilled in me some key leadership tenets – to learn from adversity, to inspire others to exceed expectations and to champion those who are committed to excellence. In my newest role, I act upon these principles every day by ensuring that our workforce, procurement, governance, programming and community investments reflect the diverse make-up of the consumers we serve. My mission is simple: Diversity wins.

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