Celebrating Cable’s Best for Women

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Although the PAR Initiative wasn’t available to measure diversity in 1979, when Women in Cable & Telecommunications was founded, the industry has made some leaps towards a diverse workforce. But over 25 years, those leaps are really just baby steps.

Unfortunately, we are still not keeping pace with the population — women represent 47% of the American workforce, but only 38.5% of cable’s workforce. The PAR Initiative provides us with these valuable benchmarks and lets us know when and where we’ve improved — and when we should celebrate.

Amid the clamor over the “Best Companies for Women in Cable” lists the WICT Foundation released last week, the theme, “Celebrate the Best Companies for Women in Cable,” may have become lost. While the WICT Foundation only releases the names of the companies to appear on one of the lists, we want to celebrate and congratulate all of the companies that participate in this partnership to raise the bar for gender diversity in our industry.

DYNAMIC DUO

Last week we celebrated two of these companies, Cox Communications Inc. and Discovery Communications Inc., for their outstanding achievements in the areas of pay equity, advancement opportunities and resources for work/life support. Thirty additional companies participated in this year’s PAR Initiative, and regardless of whether they made one of the Best Companies lists, they should be applauded for their commitment to diversity.

The PAR Initiative represents a true partnership between WICT and the cable industry. By participating, companies receive invaluable feedback that helps them continually improve their internal efforts. While participation in the initiative does require a commitment on behalf of the companies to complete the questionnaire, the information they receive in response is a significant return on this investment of time.

Just one week after the release of the 2004 PAR Initiative results, some companies have already contacted our partner, Working Mother Media, to build on the information they received in their confidential scorecard and make improvements.

We know that our industry is a competitive one; that spirit of competition cannot help but spill over into areas like PAR. Companies that are not on the list want to know why, and how they can get there. And the companies on the list want to know what they need to do to become the best. This desire to be the best will also benefit the industry as we compete to attract the best and brightest new talent, and to retain the valuable employees we already have.

Policies that companies have in place, institute or improve upon will not just benefit the employees on broad today. By striving to improve in the areas of “P,” “A” and “R,” the industry is paying itself forward.

What may seem to some a large effort to codify policies for pay equity, create programs that foster work/life balance and ensure leadership training should be viewed by the industry as a capital investment for its future. As competition for skilled workers increases — not just in our industry, but across the country — potential employees will be more selective in their choices. It will not be solely about salary or title, but about policies and benefits that create a diverse workplace.

MORE THAN FOR WOMEN

The policies advocated by the PAR Initiative do not just benefit women and parents; employees can take advantage of flextime or telecommuting while pursuing an advanced degree; men benefit from elder care referrals; all employees, regardless of age, can benefit from on-site services like health screenings. And these aren’t just nice things we can do for our employees — they encourage loyalty and increase productivity.

Employees who can take advantage of services provided in house or benefit from flexible work arrangements are less likely to need time out of the office to address personal needs.

Many of the companies recognized on this year’s Best Companies for Women in Cable lists have implemented unique policies we have identified as best practices. Cox has sick rooms for customer-service representatives so that they can bring a sick child to work, and work in an isolated room with them. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. provides “Expectant Parent Packs” which summarize the company’s benefits for expectant parents. HBO pays for child care when employees take their youngest children with them on business trips. Discovery measures the ROI of its work-life programs and culture by documenting employee productivity, conducting surveys, employing managers’ performance appraisals and surveying new hires. These are just a few of the many innovative policies at work in our industry.

These best practices and the numbers from the 2004 PAR Initiative show that the industry is moving in the right direction. As an industry, we’ve spent the last week celebrating the progress that has been made; and it’s very important that we recognize the achievements of all 32 companies that participated in the PAR Initiative.

EVERYDAY DIVERSITY

We must remember, though, that diversity happens every day — not just in the spring when we receive the survey and in the fall when we celebrate the results.

We can pat each other on the back, but we cannot turn our backs. In our celebration, we must not become complacent and think that our work is done. We are celebrating our commitment as an industry to improving diversity. We are celebrating the commitment of these 32 companies to their employees, present and future.

We are celebrating the commitment of our industry to compete for the best employees. The results are in and the resources are available to advance our diversity efforts; let’s take the momentum and enthusiasm that has built up over the past week and use that energy for positive change.

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