Leveling the Playing Field for Women


Webster's Dictionary
defines the word par as "a common level; an accepted standard; an amount taken as an average or norm."

Last week, the Women in Cable & Telecommunications Foundation introduced its newest and boldest advocacy program: The PAR Initiative. The principal goal of PAR is to help companies in our industry achieve this "common level."

Simply put, the objective of the PAR Initiative is equality for women in the workplace.

The acronym PAR stands for three "accepted standards" that are essential to creating an organizational culture in which women can succeed. They are:

  • Pay equity, or ensuring women's pay is equal to men's at every level of an organization;
  • Advancement opportunities, or making sure women are represented in equal numbers to men at every level of an organization; and
  • Resources for family support, or encouraging the advance of family-support practices within an organization, to enable the ongoing advancement of women at all levels.

It is no secret that a company that has true gender diversity throughout its ranks is better able to serve a diverse customer base, and thereby deliver superior bottom-line performance. Yet female representation has declined within our companies, and the industry has stalled in terms of moving women into the executive ranks.

Whether it's the result of consolidation, downsizing, or marketplace quirks, the fact remains there are fewer women in senior management today than there were two years ago. That is certainly not good for women, but it's also not good for our companies or our industry.

The PAR Initiative will facilitate the industry's achievement of the PAR standards in three important ways:

  • Measuring the progress of women in individual companies and throughout the industry toward achieving PAR;
  • Providing programs and services to support companies in achieving PAR;
  • Recognizing individuals and companies doing outstanding work to achieve PAR.

Starting in 2003, each year WICT will sponsor a survey of companies in the industry to measure progress on PAR standards. Working Mother Media is WICT's research partner in this effort.

A leading authority on women's issues — whose research has become a benchmark for businesses learning to implement work-and-family initiatives — Working Mother Media has released the groundbreaking list of "Best Companies for Working Women" for the past 18 years. This collaboration with Working Mother Media ensures that the PAR survey findings will be valid, objective and confidential.

Working Mother Media will compile the survey results and establish a baseline index to evaluate company and industry progress toward the three PAR standards. Realistic annual benchmarks will be established for measuring improvement.

Each company that participates in the annual PAR survey will receive a confidential report summarizing its results. As part of this phase of the program, WICT will also provide individualized prescriptives, or suggested programs and services available within and outside the industry to support each individual company's needs related to achieving PAR.

Finally, each year the WICT Foundation will recognize individuals and companies for outstanding work toward achieving PAR. The centerpiece of this phase of the program is the publication of the PAR Initiative "Best Companies for Women in Cable" list in November of each year.

Multichannel News
will devote a special issue to the list, including feature stories on the people and programs behind our industry's successes in these areas.

In addition to the "Best Companies for Women in Cable" list, the WICT Foundation will also honor the top-scoring programmer and the top-scoring operator with the Forerunner Accolade at the WICT Gala. The Forerunner Accolade is presented to an individual or organization to recognize outstanding efforts to advance the position and influence of women.

The business case

Today, our most influential customer is arguably the American woman. Women purchase 82 percent of all household products and services, including cable and telecommunications services (Travel Industry Association). According to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, cable ratings among working women aged 18 to 49 rose 7.1 percent during the last year.

In order for our industry to better meet the needs of today's American woman — and for each of us to succeed in a changing environment — we must create companies that listen to what women have to say, and then act on that. In order for our industry to compete successfully, we must commit to creating an environment in which the unique perspective of women leaders is not only valued, but expected — not simply because it is a reflection of the marketplace, but because it is good business strategy.

By clarifying where we are as an industry, and visualizing where we need to be, the PAR Initiative will make our companies stronger, expose them to best practices from other organizations, and help them attract and retain the best people. Our hope is that by providing the industry with a clear focus, tangible objectives, and increased visibility, the PAR Initiative's goal of workplace equality will become standard business practice.