As the oldest and largest organization serving women professionals in cable and telecommunications, Women in Cable & Telecommunications is at the forefront of an industry undergoing constant change. Throughout its 22-year history, WICT has remained steadfast in its resolve to advance the position and influence of women in the industry, and the unveiling of our new brand and logo at our annual Benefit Gala last month is the latest testament to that commitment.
Our new logo and mission statement are bold, direct and purposeful. Our refocused mission relates WICT's unwavering commitment to developing a broader base of experienced and educated women leaders who will help shape the industry's future. It is also a call to action to our cable and telecommunications industry partners to advance their bottom-line interests by supporting programs and services that produce leadership and advancement opportunities for women.
We must work together to reverse troubling trends that show the overall number of women in the industry is declining. Statistics show that the majority of women in the industry hold non-managerial positions, and the number of them in senior management and executive positions has stagnated at 11 and 4 percent, respectively.
Cultivating corporate leadership diversity takes an investment in time and resources. However, the returns — from increased employee loyalty to sales revenue growth — far outweigh the costs. In March 2001, the WICT Foundation published Diversity through Investment, a white-paper compilation of the results of its Best Practices Initiative Benchmark Survey.
The Case for Diversity
is the first in a series pieces derived from the Best Practices research and is designed to help companies implement best practices in their own organization. The anecdotal and statistical research contained in this publication attest to the bottom-line benefits and market advantages of senior management diversity, both in terms of gender and ethnic background.
The following excerpts from The Case for Diversity
underscore the importance of diversity and reinforce the purpose behind WICT's renewed commitment to ensure leadership opportunities for its female professional members.
We must come together as an industry to make a highly deserved and substantiated investment in cultivating real leadership opportunities for a significant and powerful voice that has yet to be heard as loudly as it should.
THE CASE FOR DIVERSITY
Diversity is not simply a buzz- word used in business today, but a key to business success in the telecommunications industry. However, diversity cannot be accomplished through conversation but through deliberate action to address the issue.
Diverse workforces improve the bottom lines of companies. In the cable and telecommunications industry, the companies that are creating products to meet the needs of their ever-changing customer base are seeing their efforts rewarded. Programs like Any Day Now, Sex and the City, Queer as Folk
and Soul Food
are targeting a more diverse customer. Along with the actors in front of the camera, talented women and people of color contribute in story development, casting, affiliate sales and marketing to make these programs profit centers for their companies. The companies that have recognized the changing demographics are now reaping the benefits of their foresight.
Industry leaders have realized that the diverse customer base is using their products in a plethora of ways. A workforce that reflects their customer base gives these companies an advantage in reaching the consumer.
According to a study by the American Management Association, there is a direct correlation between sales revenue growth and senior staff diversity. During 1996-97, in firms where women represented a majority of senior management, sales increased by an average of 22.9 percent, while firms with all-male senior management showed only 12.7 percent growth. They also show that investors and shareholders are more attracted to companies whose management and corporate boards are more diverse. These numbers affirm WICT's purpose and mission.
As America's demographics shift, so do the demands of the marketplace. The new marketplace will require more socially responsible corporate cultures. Employees are becoming savvier in their choices of employment opportunities.
Prospective employees seek out workplaces where the senior ranks contain leaders who are like them. This sends a clear message that they will have the opportunity to advance in a company. Businesses need to show that their commitment to diversity is more than packaging, that it is a fundamental part of their cultures, through the implementation of programs that address diversity in order to attract and retain the best and the brightest.
The shift in the labor force reflects not only the change in demographics in terms of labor participants, but also in terms of the consumer. Women and minorities have increasing control and influence in matters of spending. The power of their purse makes them an essential group to target for products and programming. A company with an inclusive workforce will be successful at addressing these markets. As businesses work hard to strengthen today's bottom line, they must not lose sight of what lies ahead in the future. They must also take measures to ensure that they are ready to address the changes in future markets in order to survive.
Home Box Office, Cox Communications Inc., Showtime Networks Inc. and The Weather Channel are prominent examples of companies in the cable and telecommunications industry making diversity work for them. Programming veteran HBO's workforce is more than 50 percent female and boasts 40 percent of its executives (vice president and above) are females.
Decker Anstrom, president and CEO of TWC states, "Diversity is central to our goal of attracting and retaining top talent who think, act and react to diverse consumer needs, who foster creativity and innovation and who help achieve our globalization objectives."
TWC is currently partnering with Roosevelt Thomas, a well-known diversity consultant and author of several successful books on the subject, to plan and implement a diversity initiative designed to create and sustain cultural change. TWC has taken a broad view of diversity that goes beyond gender, race and ethnicity to include things like diversity of ideas and opinions.
BEING THE BEST
As more companies in the telecommunications industry participate in these programs and receive recognition, they will be able to attract and retain better employees.
A recent study by Vanderbilt University and Hewitt Associates shows that companies that made the "best place to work" list outperformed companies that did not. These businesses had higher than average annual stock returns, better operating performance, and higher return on average assets.
A recent study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management and Fortune
magazine found that top companies said their diversity initiatives have an impact on the company's bottom line and have kept the company competitive. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents reported that their corporate culture had improved, 77 percent stated that the recruitment of new employees had improved, and 52 percent stated that there had been an improvement in client relations.
Companies in the telecommunications industry are realizing the importance of diversity. AOL Time Warner Inc. recently hired Pat Fili-Kruschel, executive vice president of administration, to address the need for diversity within the company. Even with downsizing, companies have made a point not to lose women and minorities in the shuffle. SBC Communications Inc. has had to reduce their number of employees, but has maintained the diversity of its workforce since 35 percent of its customers are minorities.
The argument for diversity is particularly compelling in tougher economic climates where every competitive advantage cannot be overlooked. Just as forward-thinking companies increase marketing efforts during unfavorable economic conditions to position themselves better for market turnarounds, progressive companies in the cable and telecommunications industry would be wise to follow this practice with their investments in diversity. The pay off is certain and substantial.