The Case for Diversity

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This week, the phrase “diversity is important” will be repeated time and again in hotel ballrooms across New York. While some may see it as a rote phrase, I see it as an opportunity.

Imagine if the industry didn’t come together annually to highlight the need to make our companies reflect the communities we serve. Imagine if the Walter Kaitz Foundation and cable’s diversity organizations didn’t host workshops, train executives and raise money for programs that promote diversity.

I, for one, don’t want to imagine it. In fact, it’s precisely because cable celebrates diversity, and takes valuable time to expand our focus on it, that I signed on to co-chair this year’s annual Kaitz dinner.

Ten years ago, I attended the Kaitz Dinner and participated in Diversity Week activities for the first time. Coming from broadcasting, I was surprised and impressed by the number of cable CEOs and other senior executives seated throughout the ballroom. That sent a powerful message about the importance of diversity, one that is all too rare in other industries.

Diversity Week provides a fresh opportunity to reflect on that message, and to challenge ourselves to achieve more.

Since my first Kaitz Dinner, cable’s diversity efforts have made solid progress, both in hiring and promotion and in offering programming and services that appeal to our diverse base of customers. Our aggressive deployment of broadband technology also has helped bridge the “digital divide” and bring new services to all Americans.

Our industry’s expansion from a single-service to a multiple-service provider places us at another historic crossroads. As we create new-media divisions, are we staffing them with managers reflective of our rapidly changing population? As we dream up new content to exploit on demand, HD, and portable devices, will it feature or be produced by faces of color and women?

The answers must be a firm “yes.” As we expand our businesses into dynamic new areas, the growing diversity in our country’s population demands that we no longer conduct business any other way. Our new opportunities for growth will largely be based on how well we understand and market to the ever-increasingly diverse population that makes up America.

Cable has built its success on program diversity, with networks targeting a wide range of interest and demographic groups. This has served us so well that we routinely beat the combined broadcast networks in audience share.

If we’re smart, we’ll learn from our own industry’s success, and overcome, once and for all, the historic barriers to growing diversity in our executive ranks, operating facilities and on both sides of the camera.

Cable already has valuable partners that reinforce our commitment to diversity. The many initiatives through the NAMIC, WICT and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation, fueled in part by funding from this week’s dinner, prepare minorities and women in our industry to be leaders and build a pipeline for future executives.

The foundation’s supplier diversity programs also help bridge gaps and build connections.

I hope that “the same old Diversity Week” this year is sparking new relationships, generating new business ideas, and spurring us to action during the other 51 weeks of the year, while we look to drive diversity from the outset in the exciting new world of bundling, content creation and multiplatform service offerings.