Sep 20, 2021
Women in Public Affairs to Know: Monica Gibbs
Monica Gibbs is currently on the AT&T External Affairs team in Greater Los Angeles advocating public policy issues and building local relationships with federal, state and local elected officials, grass roots and community stakeholders. She develops strategies for local government advocacy and ensures compliance with regulatory bodies. Her role also includes educating government and community stakeholders about corporate and industry issues and the impact on customers and the business.
Monica currently serves as Los Angeles Chapter President of AT&T’s Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group (ERG) HACEMOS. HACEMOS’s mission is to foster an environment where people support and encourage each other to succeed professionally, personally, and in the community. The chapter currently has over 700 members and coordinates over 50 engagement professional, networking cultural and volunteer opportunities per year.
The interview below was conducted by Arielle Maffei, vice president on McGuireWoods Consulting’s Illinois State Government Relations team.
Question: You currently serve as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of AT&T’s Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group. Tell me more about the group’s goals, your biggest accomplishments over the past few years and how you hope to promote change moving forward.
Monica Gibbs with other members of AT&T's Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group, HACEMOS.
Monica Gibbs: AT&T has a long history of supporting different ethnic/racial groups and providing a space for them. The Hispanic/Latino Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed in the 1989 at AT&T in Houston. The goal and purpose of the group is to help advocate for the professional growth of its Hispanic employees. We have about 750 in our membership base in the Los Angeles Chapter, and about 10,000 nationwide. The ERG provides us a space to get together and talk about issues that affect us. Over time, our efforts focused on fundraising to provide scholarships for Hispanic students, even to those that are undocumented. We also host and participate in professional development events, cultural events, such as a Hispanic Heritage month celebration and community service events.
My biggest accomplishment over the past few years has been to provide scholarships for students in need in Los Angeles. Each year we invite our recipients to our offices, get to know them and advise them on their education goals and career paths. With the pandemic we had to host these celebrations virtually this year, however the impact is the same.
I truly believe that having these intimate conversations with the next generation of Latinos is the best way to promote change moving forward. They appreciate us giving back and we always encourage them to find ways to give back in whatever way they can.
Monica with AT&T employees celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Question: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your industry? How do you navigate those challenges?
Monica: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of closing the digital divide, and AT&T did a good job of running to the issue and making it our top priority. Earlier this year we announced that we would be investing $2 billion over the next three years to help address this issue. So many students were affected greatly by the pandemic and unfortunately, they were students of color. As a company we’re dedicated to doing our part to face this challenge by providing affordability, educational resources, and economic opportunity to the millions who don’t have broadband connectivity today. I’m working on the external affairs side to engage and educate government leaders on policies and initiatives that would increase broadband availability and adoption in underserved and rural communities.
Question: Can you share some of your background coming into the public affairs space as a Latina? What advice would you give to other women trying to break into public affairs or just getting started in their public affairs career?
Monica: Out of college I wanted to go to law school, but before I did that, I ended up on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and became the national director of volunteers for Latinos for Clinton. My goals changed after that job, and even though I was admitted into law school, I decided to go into public policy because after my experience I felt as though that’s where I could really make change. I ended up getting my Master’s in Public Policy and worked at a Public Affairs firm in Washington, D.C. I had a great mentor named Maria Cardona. She founded the Hispanic segment of the firm “Latinovations” and is a political strategist and commentator on CNN. She assigned me to our AT&T client. I later moved over to AT&T and oversaw the marketing for Cricket Wireless in Los Angeles. When a position on AT&T’s external affairs team opened up, I jumped at the opportunity as my passion has always been public policy. My journey has been full of ups and downs but I believe that you have to try different jobs and roles to see where you fit in and what you like.
A lot of Latino parents encourage their children to become a lawyer or a doctor, but I think you need to do what you love and not follow a specific mold. It’s something I talk about whenever I’m on Latino panels with younger students who don’t know what careers to get into. I always encourage young professionals to try different fields. I’ve worked government, non-profit and private and I think having all of that experience has given me the best possible knowledge and skills to do what I do now.
Question: It looks like volunteer work has been important to you throughout your career. How has volunteering helped you personally and professionally?
Monica: I’ve been volunteering since high school. It's truly a passion of mine to give back to my community. It has helped me grow personally throughout the years by allowing me to learn new skills like public speaking and event planning. Professionally, volunteering has really helped me gain new perspectives. A great example was when I was volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and I mentored a young inter-city student. I learned that she did all of her homework from her phone, even writing her papers! As an AT&T executive, working on digital divide issue, this information helped me provide an anecdotal story when I am in the field advocating for this issue. To me, volunteering enhances everything about your experience and helps you grow. And the great thing about being part of an ERG is that I get to participate in volunteer opportunities while representing my company.