About three months into his term as president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, Eglon Simons is beginning to leave his mark on the diversity organization. Ahead of this week’s NAMIC Conference in New York, the former Cablevision Systems and CBS executive spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about his vision for NAMIC, as well as the industry’s diversity efforts.
MCN: How would you define the NAMIC brand?
Eglon Simons: The brand stays the same. I think it’s descriptive of what the thoughts were for the organization 34 years ago. Even with the name change, the key is communications, including the whole panorama of communications today that is so wide with the multiple screens.
Before it was one screen, one cable, one wire. Now it’s wireless and it’s all over the place. Our adjustment is to fill all of the angles and the voids that exist in the communications area. … We’re building upon what we have, so there’s no need to create anything new.
MCN: How, then, do you take the next step? Are you taking any other steps internally to reflect the challenges the organization faces within a changing marketplace?
ES: It’s not so much change within the organization itself, but taking a hard look at the products and services that we provide to our memberships and to our support base.
There might be an adjustment of some of our focuses and how we go about concentrating on those focuses. Over time, we will learn more, and once we get by our conference, which is our signature event of the year, we can take a hard look at what we need to produce and create and market during the latter part of this year and into 2015.
MCN: Prior leadership began to shift NAMIC more toward an advocacy role in Washington. Where do you stand on its industry role?
ES: We are not a lobbying organization. The NCTA does a great job at that, as do other organizations. … Our focus is to go in and provide services for our membership and those who are not members to make sure that people of color have the tools to take advantage of all the opportunities that exist by virtue of what has been happening in this industry.
The industry is consolidating, but it’s also expanding at the same time. We want to make sure that with that consolidation, people of color are fully represented across the board.
MCN: Where do you see the industry’s efforts in advancing diversity within its employment ranks?
ES: Are there any people of color that are CEOs? Yes. Is there diversity in programming? Yes. I feel good about it. As I look around, I see people of color as general counsels in organizations. I see people of color heading up very important departments. So when I look at that landscape, I think it looks pretty good.
It’s what I don’t see that I’m concerned about. All the corporations will highlight their stars, but I think it goes deeper than that. You want to make sure that people at all the levels have equal access to all of the opportunities available in the business, not just a few that shine at the top.
MCN: What are the two biggest issues the industry is facing with regard to diversity?
ES: One issue that’s been on my mind: I want to take a hard look at diversity on the supply side feeding and supporting our industry. A lot of wealth has been developed and a lot of money has been spent — there are billiondollar contracts out there. I would be interested in finding out to what extent minorityowned businesses have participated in that wealth-building. … The second piece is that I hope consolidation has not hurt the inroads and growth of people of color in any dimension more than anyone else.
MCN: If you were to take out your crystal ball and project a year from now, what changes do you think NAMIC will undergo during that time?
ES: The value proposition of NAMIC would have grown. That growth is going to come from an expanded footprint as far as participation and support base. Our membership will grow, and we will make sure that our membership pipeline serves all of our members — there are those who started NAMIC 34 years ago, who are maybe in the sunset of their careers, and there are those who have been in our leadership programs and ELDP programs that are hopefully flourishing in companies.
And then what’s most important is that we are developing a new pipeline of young people who are in college or are starting their jobs right now, to make sure that they understand the opportunities and they have the tools to take advantage of those opportunities. One of the things we’re looking forward to is the college-outreach program. There are three cycles of a career: when you’re coming out of college and just starting a job; [when] you’re in the middle of developing your career; and [when] you’re a mature person. If at any point we do not address one of those three constituents, then we could take a loss.
If we don’t especially respond to the millennials and the Gen Xers out there, because those of us who are seniors think we’ve made it, that’s not a good thing.
Diversity Week at a Glance
WICT Leadership Conference
Sept. 15-16, New York Marriott Marquis
WICT opens its 2014 conference — with its theme of “Step In. Step Up. Step Out” — with journalist and author Andrea Mitchell. Other opening guest speakers include WICT CEO Maria Brennan; Comcast EVP and chief diversity officer David Cohen; WICT-co founder and first executive director Lucille Larkin; media entrepreneur Geraldine Laybourne; TV One SVP of national account and field-sales strategies Rori Peters; and former BendBroadband CEO Amy Tykeson.
Christine Driessen, EVP and CFO of ESPN, will be recognized as Woman of the Year at WICT’s Touchstones Luncheon, with remarks from Maggie Gyllenhaal of SundanceTV’s The Honorable Woman.
For the full schedule, visit: http://www.wict.org/programs/conference/Pages/2014-Conference-Schedule.aspx#.VBCuMGMzLuA.
Sept. 16-17, New York Marriott Marquis
NAMIC’s 28th annual conference opens with a conversation with NCTA CEO Michael Powell and a keynote from astronaut Leland Melvin. Other highlights: the L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program Luncheon, featuring a keynote speech from ABC Nightline anchor Juju Chang.
The Sept. 17 general session, a discussion on the state of diversity in the media, will include David Cohen, Comcast EVP; Craig Robinson, EVP and chief diversity officer, NBCUniversal; Josie J. Thomas, EVP and chief diversity officer, CBS Corp.; Marva Smalls, EVP of global inclusion strategy, Viacom, and EVP, public affairs and chief of staff, Nickelodeon; and Rhonda Taylor, EVP and chief people officer, Cox.
For the full schedule, visit: http://namic.com/events/conference/index.php.
Kaitz Foundation Dinner
Sept. 17, New York Marriott Marquis
The Kaitz Foundation will honor FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn with its Diversity Advocate Award and BET Networks with its Diversity Champion Award.
For more info, visit: http://www.walterkaitz.org/dinner/home/.