Pumping Up The Volume

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Women and people of color have increased their respective employment numbers over the past two years within the cable industry’s middle- and upper-management ranks, despite a poor overall U.S. employment climate, according to new industry employment surveys.

Women now represent more than 43% of all full-time employees in cable telecommunications, including 20% that are sitting in cable-company board rooms — outpacing Fortune 500 companies, according to the Women in Cable Telecommunications’ PAR (pay equity, advancement opportunities and resources for work/life support) survey. People of color have increased their representation within executive/senior-level positions by 8 percentage points over the past three years, according to the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications’ AIM (Advancement Measurement Index) survey.

While executives from WICT and NAMIC are optimistic about the findings, both said the results show that the industry still has a way to go to achieve its overall diversity goals.

“The news is mostly good, but from WICT’s perspective, until there is parity across the board, our work isn’t quite done,” WICT president and CEO Maria E. Brennan said.

James Jones, vice president of education programs for NAMIC, added that while people of color have made tangible employment strides, the industry has to continue to focus on the value of providing diversity within their ranks.


“You can look at places where the numbers could and should be stronger, but overall, the industry did not take its eyes off the prize during difficult times,” he said. “I hope in a couple of years this is less about numbers and more about looking at competencies and fi nd out what it takes to drive the bottom line.”

The surveys, which will be presented Tuesday at a Diversity Town Hall meeting in New York during the 25th annual NAMIC Conference, show progressive increases among women and people of color (African-American, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islanders) in executive and mid-level management positions since WICT’s last PAR survey in 2009 and NAMIC’s prior 2008 AIM survey. Fifty four percent of the cable workforce participated in the first-ever joint WICT/NAMIC survey, which was conducted this past June, in association with the Society for Human Resource Management.

People of color represent 33% of all full-time employees within cable telecommunications organizations, a 3% increase from the 2008 survey. The numbers, however, are slightly below the 36% of people of color employed in the overall telecommunications industry, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

With regard to executive-level positions, people of color represent 24% of programmer executives and senior-level managers, an increase from 16% three years ago. People of color in executive, senior- level and manager positions at MSOs also increased to 12% from 7%.


Jones said the results show that the cable industry remains focused on the issue of diversity employment, despite a poor overall economy.

“I think the industry has gained perspective as to what is important in lean times, with executive and training development creating a pipeline that is developing leaders of color ready to take the helm,” Jones said.

People of color showed small gains in executive and mid-level management positions, but among first-time mid-level officials and managers, the results were mixed. While first-time hires among Asians and Pacific Islanders in executive positions increased from 2% to 4%, the Hispanic/ Latino category only grew to 7% from 4% and African- American new executive hires actually decreased slightly, from 14% in 2008 to 13% in 2011.

Also, the percentage of people of color who held seats on boards of directors showed little to no growth, according to the survey.

Women fared better in their representation within executive- level positions (executive/ senior-level officials and managers), gaining five percentage points to 30%.

More impressively, of the 10% highest paid staff in cable telecommunications organizations, 30% were women. Women represented 32% of the 10% highest-paid employees on the cable programming side, and 25% for MSOs.

The number of women who were new hires also showed gains, according to the PAR survey. In 2011, the percentage of new hires who were women was 46% for cable telecommunications organizations, representing a 6 percentage- point increase from 40% in 2009. Brennan said she was “heartened” by the number of women employed in the business. “When you see women in the 40% percentile of employees in the industry, that’s striking distance in parity,” she added.

Digital media was the only sector in which female employment declined. The percentage of women digital-media employees at cabletelecommunications organizat ions decreased to 31% from 36 in 2009.

“There’s probably a correlation between women and technological skills of the cable industry, which are traditionally low,” Brennan said, adding that the organization has launched a mentoring brand, in tandem with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, to help advance women in technology.

While the employment numbers for both women and people of color are positive, industry observers said cable has to continue to hire and mentor minorities and women to remain competitive in a cutthroat telecommunications marketplace.

“I believe that it is important for us to be as aggressive in holding the industry accountable to insure that people of color, in particular, are being hired and promoted in this industry,” Roland Martin, CNN on-air personality and host of TV One’s Washington Watch Sundaymorning show, said. “Any time I see progress, I applaud that, but also I want to see [people of color] put on the boards of directors and as presidents of networks — some of the most talented people in this industry are people of color, so we must be vigilant to assure that it happens.”