Women Execs Still Struggle

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Cable lags far behind the national average in terms of women in the workplace and executive roles, according to the newly released PAR (pay equity, advancement opportunities and resources for work/life support) Initiative study completed by Women in Cable & Telecommunications.

Women represent 42% of the national workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but only 38.7% of the cable workforce. Industry at large has 42% women executives, WICT added, but the PAR study showed cable's average is 29%.

Women of color are "almost entirely absent from senior management," WICT said, noting that 13% of cable company employees are nonwhite. Women of color are also less likely to advance into management than white women, WICT said.

In the study, Cox Communications Inc. and The Weather Channel were named the best cable workplaces for women.

Both received Forerunner Accolades at last week's annual WICT gala in Washington, D.C. At the dinner, The Weather Channel president Bill Burke accepted his network's award and gave full credit for his channel's progress in terms of diversity to the executive he succeeded, Decker Anstrom.

Burke, brother of Comcast Corp. cable unit president Steve Burke, also poked fun at himself, quipping that he hoped he served "as an inspiration for all white men with family connections."

MSOs also topping the list (in alphabetical order, not in order of finish) were Cable One Inc., Comcast Corp., Insight Communications Co. and Time Warner Cable.

Joining The Weather Channel on the programmers' list are, alphabetically, ABC Cable Networks Group, Discovery Communications Inc., Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and Lifetime Television.

Executives of both The Weather Channel and Cox said workforce diversity has been a conscious business strategy in recent years. Cox would not be a broadband leader had it not taken aggressive measures to diversify its talent pool, Cox CEO Jim Robbins added in a prepared statement.

Some companies who were not lauded in the study say they have made strides, noting swelling ranks among female executives. A large proportion of post-bankruptcy filing hires at Adelphia Communications Corp. have been women.

Nineteen of the executives recently promoted to roles at the level of vice president, general manager or higher by Charter Communications Inc. have been women, said senior vice president of communications David Andersen. These include executive vice president and chief operating officer Maggie Bellville, treasurer Eloise Schmitz, senior vice president, Midwest operations Lee Clayton, and senior vice president of programming Sue Ann Hamilton.

In subcategories of the PAR Initiative study, DirecTV Inc. was named the best company in terms of pay equity; Discovery was found to offer the best advancement opportunities; and Comcast was tops in terms of work/life support.

The study does not publicly identify poor performers.

In an interview earlier this year, WICT executives explained participating companies get confidential scorecards so they can determine how they compare to the top companies.

"The results of the PAR Initiative have shown us that while we are making progress with opportunities for women, there is still much work to be done," WICT president Benita Fitzgerald Mosley said. "If the PAR Initiative has taught us one thing, it is that the size of the company had no impact on its ability to advance and support the women within its ranks.

"The companies that made the lists were not necessarily the largest, or those with the most revenues, but those companies that did the most to empower their employees and contribute their success," she said in a statement.

Linda Moss contributed to this report.

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