NAMIC Praises, Prods Cable

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The final Diversity Week festivities in New York proved fruitful for the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications Conference and The Walter Kaitz Foundation fundraising dinner.

The 22nd annual NAMIC conference drew a record 800 attendees over its Sept. 14-16 gathering, dubbed “Diversity: Pipeline to Innovation,” according to association board chairman Alicin Reidy-Williamson.

The Kaitz Foundation fundraising dinner on Sept. 17 collected more than $1.7 million for various cable-industry programs promoting diversity, according to Kaitz executive director David Porter. The 25th annual event also was in its last year in New York.

Both events will move to Denver next fall as part of the cable industry's event-consolidation plan.

During NAMIC's opening panel, several cable chief executives commented that the industry is improving its hiring of people of color but still has a long way to go to fully reach its goals.

DiversityInc. co-founder Luke Visconti, commenting on the recently released biannual NAMIC diversity employment survey, said that, while cable is better than most industries in its overall hiring of minorities, it still has a way to go, especially compared with competitors Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

DiversityInc. co-partnered with NAMIC on producing the annual survey, which revealed that cable has made gains in minority employment over the past two years but some of its numbers — particularly in placing people of color in upper-management positions — fall well short of its telco competitors'.

While acknowledging that cable still has to work hard to achieve its diversity goals, both Comcast Corp. executive vice president David Cohen and NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow said the industry should nevertheless be lauded for the strides it has made on the diversity front.

“It's time to move on from [the argument] it's a business case, to rather it's a necessity, because we're a global entertainment business,” added A&E Television Networks president Abbe Raven. “Our business has to reflect that as well as our suppliers … it's no longer a luxury … it's the way we do business.”

TV One CEO Johnathan Rodgers said operators and networks have to realize how valuable a diverse workforce with a variety of experiences and ideas can be to the success of an organization: “[A diverse workforce] will be more productive through the combination of different people working together. It's making sure that everyone is represented, because they bring good ideas.”

Still, BET CEO Debra Lee said it is a “disgrace” that more people of color are not among cable's top management ranks and efforts to rectify the situation have to be implemented from the CEO down. “It comes back to CEO commitment … it's not about quotas, but it is about progress.”

Said Scripps Networks president John Lansing: “Unless you create at the top a process that rewards diverse hiring practices, then things really don't change.”

Lee noted that there are very qualified people of color who, if given the chance, can fill the top jobs at cable operators and networks.

Comcast's Cohen said the search for such candidates has to take place both inside and outside of the industry. But, he added, things will not improve overnight. “The worst thing we can do to move the needle is to just talk to everyone in the room. You have to go to different audiences and different places where the talent is … we're a very insular group, and we love to honor each other, but we're not doing [enough] outreach.”

On the Kaitz front, more than 1,300 cable executives gathered at the organization's cocktail party, dinner and reception that honored U.S. Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Bright House Networks and Scripps Networks for their efforts in championing diversity.

Kaitz's Porter said the organization is confident it will continue to receive the industry's support during the event-consolidation effort.

“We're just going to have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we get our regular attendees here in New York to fly to Denver,” he said. “It's going to take a lot of convincing, maybe some arm twisting, but we hope it will be a success.”

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