Oral Histories

Marilyn Laurie

Interview Segments on Topic: Transition to Corporate World

Marilyn Laurie Biography

Marilyn Laurie joined AT&T in 1971 as a nationally recognized environmentalist who helped create Earth Day and the Environmental Action Coalition.  Over the years, she created an environmental education program for AT&T employees, wrote speeches, worked in media relations and corporate advertising.  She recently retired as executive vice president of brand strategy and advertising, was a member of the 10-person Executive Committee and was responsible for leading AT&T’s brand building activities.  In addition, she served as chairman of the AT&T Foundation, overseeing a billion dollars in grants to educational, arts and community organizations throughout the world.

In  2002, Ms. Laurie was elected to the Arthur W. Page Society’s Public Relations Hall of Fame.  She was named one of “New York’s 75 Most Influential Women” by Crain’s, named a PR All-Star twice by Inside PR magazine, and received the Human Relations Award of the American Jewish Committee among many other honors.  Ms. Laurie is a Trustee of Columbia University, a Director of the New York City Ballet and currently is President of Laurie Consulting, Inc and is a past member of the Arthur W. Page Center Advisory Board.

Transcript

Interviewer: You spoke a moment ago about the early days of your career. Did you have a mentor during that time in your career?

Laurie: No. I probably would’ve broken fewer eggs in my early days at AT&T had I had one, but I was so odd. I was female doing the kind of work that women were not represented in. I was a New Yorker in a company that was Midwest in its soul. I was Jewish in a company that had very few people who were. And I  had been brought up in the Bronx in New York, so I was a little tougher than the culture of the company.  I broke a lot of things before I learned how to swim in that environment, get done what needed to get done.  I think mentors are a really good thing and I regret I didn’t have one  early on. Later, I had someone I admired enormously who shaped my view of what could be done, but not in the early days.

Interviewer: Do you feel that today the workplace fosters an environment for mentoring?

Laurie: I think so. I think mentoring is much more understood today.  Given the kinds of advances that women have made, for practical purposes, in most places they are operating as easily as men are. I think more men are mentoring women and I think particularly more women are mentoring women. I try to come back to mentor when I can today. But then I was I was pretty alone in the early days.