Sprint Corp. chief executive Marcelo Claure set a target Monday that one-third of the company’s employees and management team should be Hispanic or of African-American descent.
Claure, a Bolivian immigrant to the United States, made the pledge during an address to the National Council of La Raza’s national convention in Kansas City.
“I have made it a very clear point that I want one-third of our employees and our management team to be Hispanic or of African-American descent,” he said. “It’s not because we need to fill a quota. It’s because I’m certain that we will understand the needs of our customers better.”
More than a third of Sprint’s customers, Claure said, are Hispanic or of African-American descent. The Overland Park-based company had about 31,000 employees at the end of March.
A Sprint spokeswoman said Claure’s comments reflected his “vision” for the company’s workforce better understanding its customers rather than specific hiring goals.
“It’s not a policy,” Melinda Tiemeyer said.
Nor did she have a report on the percentage of Sprint’s employees or its management team who are Hispanic or of African-American descent.
The address was part of a politically packed convention agenda Monday, the third day of the four-day event at the Kansas City Convention Center. Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley spoke earlier in the day, and Hillary Clinton spoke after Claure. Each candidate seeks the Democratic nomination.
For Claure, it was an opportunity to raise Sprint’s profile with perhaps the next president.
Analysts speculate that Sprint still may have interest in pursuing a merger with rival T-Mobile US Inc. The current members of the Federal Communications Commission had made clear they preferred four national carriers and had no interest in allowing a merger. The company never formally sought approval for a merger.
The next president could change the makeup of the FCC and the agency’s outlook on a potential deal.
Claure briefly told the audience his entrepreneurial tale, which led to the sale of Brightstar Corp., his $10 billion a year cellphone distribution company in Miami. He sold it to take the helm of Sprint last August.
His mission has been focused on boosting subscriber totals, even as T-Mobile threatens to surpass Sprint and become the No. 3 carrier in the nation.
“I want to prove that we Hispanics are as capable as anybody else to lead a major corporation,” Claure told his audience. “I also know that if I fail, the journey will be much harder for those who follow.”
Claure said the opportunity to demonstrate Hispanic capability was one of the main reasons he took the job at Sprint “and the one that keeps me full of energy and hope.”
Success, he noted, would open the way for other Hispanic business leaders to follow. Claure then made a pitch for his audiences’ help in his success — by becoming Sprint customers.
Laughter and applause greeted his humorous ending to a serious message. But appearing at La Raza’s convention fits nicely into Claure’s marketing plans for Sprint.
In November, he announced formation of a Hispanic business unit to court a fast growing but largely overlooked part of the telecommunications market. He named Roger Solé, a Brazilian telecommunications executive, to head the unit in April.
Sprint is the host city sponsor for the National Council of La Raza’s convention here, which last came to Kansas City in 1989.
Volunteers from Sprint also were helping with the convention’s Family Expo, which ran throughout the three-day event, and with the trade show, where Sprint had a booth.
To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar