News

Bar Raised, But Not Enough

9/14/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

The cable industry has made gains in minority employment over the past two years, but some of its numbers fall well short of its telco competitors, according to a new National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications survey.

Multichannel News obtained a copy of the biannual NAMIC Employment Research Survey, which reports that cable’s overall representation of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans rose to 30% from 28% since NAMIC’s last survey in 2006.

But that falls short of diversity statistics from the top telco companies — AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Communications — which report a 36% diversity rate among their collective employees according to the survey, which was developed in conjunction with DiversityInc magazine. Each year that magazine compiled its own top-50 list of companies committed to diversifying their employment and supplier ranks.

Cable’s minority workforce compares favorably with that of the DiversityInc Top 50 list.

“The report shows the cable has improved since the last survey in 2006, but the key message is that we’re not improving at as rapid a rate as some of the companies in the DiversityInc Top 50, which includes the top telcos, which MSOs in particular will be competing against for talent,” said NAMIC president Kathy Johnson.

On the management level, minority representation on all levels increased from 19% in 2006 to 25% in 2008, outranking the 24% among companies in the DiversityInc Top 50 list but falling short of the telcos’ 27%.

The number of minorities in senior management ranks actually fell to 12% in 2008 — 11% black, no Latinos and 1% Asian — from 14% in 2006.

Cable does compare favorably with the telcos except in terms of Latinos, the survey said. Phone companies employ only 8% of people of color in senior management positions — 5% black, 3% Latino and no Asian employees. DiversityInc’s Top 50 sets minority senior management at 15%, with 7% Black, 3% Latino and 5% Asian.

For the survey, 16 companies (five MSOs and 11 programming networks) representing 223,300 employees participated this year, up from 14 companies and 108,000 employees in 2006, although Johnson would not disclose specific company names. But only four of the 2008 participants were represented in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 surveys, and only nine participated in both 2006 and 2008.

“We’re very pleased to see that the number of participating companies has increased, as well as the representation of employees, which more than doubled from the last survey,” she said.

Where the industry continues to struggle is the retention of people of color. According to the survey, Blacks and Latinos were retained at a rate of 81% and Asians at 78%, compared to 87% of whites and 82% of women.

For MSOs in particular, whites were retained at a high 93% rate, while blacks were retained at a rate of 69%, women at 75%, Latinos at 72% and Asians at 70%.

Cox Communications senior vice president and chief people officer Mae Douglass added the industry needs to be more cognizant of its retention efforts and provide greater mentoring and other services to executives of color — Asians in particular — in an effort to keep and eventually promote minority employees.

With regard to supplier diversity, cable companies surveyed spend 9% of their total procurement with minority- and women-owned suppliers compared with 7% for the top telcos and 5% for the Top 50.

But cable companies lag behind other industries when it comes to best practices surrounding supplier diversity. Only 38% of NAMIC companies have supplier-diversity departments, compared to all of the top telcos and all of the Top 50 companies.

Further, only 25% of NAMIC companies link management compensation to supplier diversity, compared to 100% of the top telcos and 90% of the Top 50 companies.

Johnson said greater CEO focus on diversity and tying compensation to diversity objectives for employment and supplier recruitment will help boost cable’s overall diversity numbers.

March