'Embrace Diversity, Embrace Success'

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Next week, in New York City, the National Association of Minorities in Communications will be gathering some of the most creative, innovative and accomplished managers and executives in the industry for its annual conference. As a group, they are part of the decision-making process in areas as diverse as marketing, human resources, programming, affiliate relations and technology.

Contrary to popular belief, the 17th
Annual NAMIC Conference is not just for minorities. It is a forum for people who share business and professional interests, and who respect and support the importance of diversity as a strategic business imperative.

The executives of color in attendance represent an incredible and impressive leap forward in the progress of minorities in the field since NAMIC launched its first conference in 1986.

All of which seems to beg the question, "If minorities have come so far in the last 17 years, why does NAMIC still find the need to meet? Indeed, why a need for NAMIC at all?"

The answers are simple. While minorities have stretched past boundaries to take active and leading roles in management in some of the largest communications companies in the nation, their numbers remain miniscule in comparison to the collective and increasing impact of minorities on culture, and more importantly, on the American economy.

And despite the significant but relatively small gains of minorities in the last decade, there are those who decry even those tiny steps forward, and who continue to work diligently to put an end to programs and policies designed to lift barriers to minority success.

Much still to be done

That a few individuals have achieved success is no reason to close the door on the dreams of others. Those minorities who have reached the top have not done so alone. While their achievements are based on individual skill and innovation, they are grounded in the success of those who came before and those who nurtured and supported them in their climb.

That point seems to have been lost on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he joined the dissent in this year's Grutter vs. Bollinger decision, upholding the use of affirmative action in some college-admissions practices.

In his written opinion, Thomas equated affirmative action and diversity programs with acts of "benevolence," "pity" and "sympathy" toward minorities.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The communications industry, in particular, is a high-stakes, capital-intensive business with an eye always set toward the bottom line. There is scant room for pity or sympathy in hiring people whose work must stand up to the scrutiny of millions of viewers and thousands of shareholders.

The smart companies who have embraced diversity have done so out of a strategic imperative — the need to connect to new markets and create new opportunities. That's good business, not benevolence.

The Obligation to help

Those of us who are in a position to make a difference cannot make the same mistake. We have an obligation as mentors, managers and leaders to ensure that those minorities with the talent and drive to succeed get the opportunity to do so.

The Annual NAMIC Conference is designed to do just that.

"Embrace Diversity. Embrace Success" is the theme of this year's conference and the fundamental principle guiding NAMIC's work and programs over the years and into the future.

Aside from offering invaluable networking opportunities, we'll be discussing critical trends that impact the industry, such as the ever-increasing power of the Latino market in the shaping the communications landscape. And as always, we'll be celebrating the success of a new breed of minority executives influencing communications across a wide spectrum of interests.

We're proud to say that more and more companies are hearing the NAMIC message. Each year, the list of conference sponsors and participants grows and 2003 is no exception. That's a signal to the industry that more corporations are embracing diversity as a powerful tool for growth and positive change. And, of course, profit.

Are you getting the message?

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