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Advancement Advances

11/11/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Programming companies took three of the top five spots in the Women In Cable & Telecommunications advancement opportunity survey. But operators are proving they are serious about giving women carefully laid-out routes for moving up and across the corporate ladder.

Indeed, 100% of the participating operators in this year’s survey say they offer leadership training for women at all levels. That compares to 76% of programmers that have similar programs. What’s more, operators are more than twice as likely as programmers to offer financial training for non-financial employees for the purpose of rotating them into operating positions, according to the PAR report findings.

Advancement Opportunities
Oxygen Media
Cox Communications Inc.
Scripps Networks
Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
Comcast Corp.

This is important, WICT president Benita Fitzgerald Mosley says, because the trail to the CEO’s office is generally found by traversing the financial, operational and technical paths, which have not traditionally been taken by most women.

“Of all the things the survey found this year, this is one area I was perhaps the most excited about,” Fitzgerald Mosley says. “Operators are more regularly rotating women through the operations side of the house and ultimately preparing women for those executive-level positions.

“Women have traditionally gravitated to jobs in marketing, communications and human relations — all important positions, to be sure,” she adds. “But they don’t generally lead to the executive suite. I am pleased to see more operators rotating women into operating, financial and technical roles, because they are ultimately preparing those women for executive-level positions.”

At Comcast Corp., leadership training has always been important. The company participates in several internal and external programs, says Mary Pennington, senior director of recruiting and career development.

“Between 1999 and 2004, we have had over 500 people go through our internal and external leadership programs, including Comcast University, Betsy Magness Institute, [National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications] and [Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing],” Pennington says. “And 58% of those employees have been women.”

Interestingly, many of the companies with the best results in promoting women also have a higher percentage of women working for them than men. For instance, Oxygen Media’s workforce is 70% women; more than half of the employees at Home Box Office and Scripps Networks are women; women comprise 60% of Discovery Communication Inc.’s employee base; and 61% of Lifetime Television’s employees are women. But the executives from all the winning companies stressed they make sure their advancement programs benefit all employees, not just women.

“If you try to have an inclusive culture where everyone is heard regardless of race, creed, color or job title, it’s good for everyone,” Oxygen chairman and CEO Geraldine Laybourne says. “It’s really about creating a place that values individuals. No one is held back here.”

Oxygen has put all its human-relations functions in the hands of its managers. That way, problems and issues are solved quicker and more efficiently. The company has spent the same amount of money it would have spent on a centralized human resources department, Laybourne says.

Scripps has a centralized HR department, but the group goes department by department to help strategize how to best train, mentor and promote its best employees, says senior vice president of human resources Julie Cookson. The company launched a formal mentoring program this year to augment its informal program. And to date, 80% of the participants are women.

“We found that men are pretty good at finding mentors,” Cookson says. “But it’s harder when you’re a minority, a woman or both. We want to identify our high potential employees and help them with their goals.”

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