By DAVID PORTER
“Make a Statement. Make a Difference” is not only the theme of this year’s Walter Kaitz Foundation’s Annual Fund-Raising Dinner, but is also a call for the cable industry to collectively move forward and engender change.
Change requires hard work, and we have lots more work to do on diversity. At its core, the foundation has always been committed to increasing the number of women and people of color in the cable industry.
Through advocacy, a targeted grants program, programs and partnerships, our goal has always been to create a more diverse workforce. However, we must redouble our efforts to increase diversity in the C-suite. The best companies have implemented processes to include diverse candidates in hiring decisions, groom women and people of color for senior positions, and hold senior executives accountable for developing diverse leaders.
But the foundation’s work also focuses on increasing supplier diversity and diversity in programming content.
Supplier diversity is critical in enhancing cable’s ability to compete in the marketplace. By diversifying the supplier base, we create a more robust supply chain, increase our ability to develop creative solutions and build stronger relationships in the communities where we operate.
Many cable companies have made headway, but more work lies ahead. At a minimum, every company should develop an easily accessible database of women and minority suppliers; include diverse suppliers in bidding processes; regularly measure their diversity spend; and set aggressive goals to ensure that procurement managers are making the necessary efforts to succeed in building a diverse supplier base.
As one of this year’s Diversity Champion award honorees, Comcast is a shining example of what one company can do to build a strong supplier-diversity program. Comcast’s journey began in 2003 by developing an extensive network of diverse suppliers. This network was then made easily available to purchasing agents across the country and, by 2008, Comcast boasted a $500 million annual spend with diverse businesses.
Diversity in content - on and behind the screen - is another area requiring increased focus. Images in media have a powerful impact, as do the people behind the scenes creating those very images. As content explodes exponentially, our industry has a real opportunity to broaden viewers’ perspectives, and place new faces in front of, and behind, the cameras. This means developing and hiring diverse candidates who can fill the pipeline and grow into successful directors, writers, producers and on-air talent.
We can easily see this transition at Turner, the other Diversity Champion honoree at our 2009 fund-raising dinner. Turner’s diversity efforts are exemplified by the successful launches of TBS’s Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and Meet the Browns, its upcoming Lopez Tonight, and in the multi-ethnic cast of TNT’s The Closer. With diverse domestic and global markets, Turner’s cable networks create and distribute programs that appeal to diverse audiences.
For more than a quarter century, the Walter Kaitz Foundation has engaged the industry and augmented opportunities for women and people of color. We’ve been trying to make a statement, and hope we are making a difference. Please join us on this journey and do what you can to create a more inclusive cable industry.
David M. Porter Jr. is executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation.