A year after a Spring Snowstorm forced a postponement of the 2018 T. Howard Diversity Awards Dinner in New York from March to May, the organization is gearing up for sunny skies at its event this week.
The diversity organization, which helps place college-age people of color into internship programs with entertainment companies around the U.S., is expecting more than 700 attendees for its 26th annual fundraising dinner on Wednesday (March 27) at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The event will celebrate industry leaders and companies committed to increasing diversity, including Starz, which will receive the organization’s Corporate Leadership Award, and the cast of ABC’s comedy series Fresh Off The Boat, which will be honored with T. Howard’s Diversity Advocate Award.
In addition, T. Howard will present Executive Leadership Awards to three female executives. T. Howard Foundation president and CEO Jo Pamphile spoke with Multichannel News about the event as well as her thoughts on the industry’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
MCN: What is the focus for this year’s dinner?
Jo Pamphile: We have a convergence of messages — one of the strongest is the fact that all three of our Eexecutive Leadership Awards are going to three remarkable women. This is just wonderful progress for women, professionally speaking. Also for the first time we’re honoring a [TV show] cast: ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. We tend to pay a lot of attention to Latino and African-Americans, but don’t give as much attention to another group of color, which are Asian people. In addition, Starz has been remarkable in its diversity both in front of and behind the camera. We are always focused on strengthening our message of diversity through the dinner. While it is a fundraiser, it’s also an opportunity to put that message out into the forefront.
MCN: T. Howard is now receiving funds from The Walter Kaitz Foundation. How will you look to use them?
JP: The area that we wanted to expand next year is our scholarships. We submitted requests for funding of the scholarships that we provide, and they also gave us additional funding as it relates to STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] students. Sometimes we have a tendency to overlook the fundamentals because we have a mission to help people to get jobs in the industry, but suppose those potential employees can’t get out of the educational process because of lack of funding? We want to help them launch a career, but we also want to help those that have done the right thing and finished high school and picked their area of interest. The biggest challenge for those students of color is how are they going to get access to the opportunities. If they’re not in school or they’ve dropped out for financial reasons, we’ve lost them. So being able to get scholarship dollars from the Kaitz Foundation is extremely helpful.
MCN: How would you rate the industry’s diversity and inclusion efforts?
JP: I think there’s room for improvement in every industry. The industry is in a state of flux as a result of consolidation, so it’s a very difficult time. But I know when I look at our numbers regarding our intern placements, over 100 alumni hires are getting hired every year, and that number is growing. This year’s dinner, we’ll put a spotlight on not only those alumni who were hired, but also those who have been promoted.
MCN: Are you worried consolidation might hamper future diversity efforts going forward?
JP: I would be remiss if it didn’t concern me, but you have to be able to adjust to the ebbs and flows of the business. You have to be resilient; I’m always looking for the positive aspects of everything. Consolidation has forced companies to be more competitive and to come up with new solutions to the business that may not have happened otherwise. They are also embracing diversity because it expands the market, so that works in our favor. You have to look at this as the glass is half full and not half empty, and you take it from there.
A snapshot of the T. Howard Executive Leadership Award recipients:
Executive VP and CFO, CBS Corp.
Spade oversees all financial operations of CBS Corp. including treasury, tax, accounting, internal audit, information security and real estate. Prior to this position, Spade served as executive VP and chief financial officer and strategy for Showtime Networks since 2013.
EVP and General Counsel, Fox Corp.
Tuzon leads the business and legal strategy for Fox’s sports and entertainment assets. She also oversees legal and business affairs for many functional areas, including corporate, distribution, digital, standards and practices, business development and content sales.
President and Senior Executive Producer, CBS News
Zirinsky is responsible for all news content for the CBS Television Network, CBS News digital platforms and CBS News Radio. Zirinsky, a former senior executive producer at CBS News, was named president and senior executive producer of CBS News this month.