Earlier this month, Comcast hosted 58 Emma Bowen interns for a day at our Philadelphia headquarters. While they heard from our company’s senior leaders, I thought about the valuable experience they were gaining and the many doors that should open for them as a result of this program. Like many in cable, Comcast is a longtime supporter of the Emma Bowen Foundation. We have provided internships to nearly 100 students interested in media and communications careers.

With such a competitive landscape, our industry can find it challenging to distinguish itself as an employer of choice for diverse candidates. This is why we must disseminate the message that cable provides opportunities to help diverse candidates embark on the road to achievement.

For this reason, Comcast, like many in the cable industry, participates in hundreds of diversity recruiting events. As a result, we have formed partnerships with numerous professional, minority and community-based organizations that have helped us attract qualified, talented diverse employees at all levels. In fact, nearly 40% of Comcast’s workforce is composed of minorities.

The need to spread cable’s message to diverse candidates will only gain in importance as the U.S. workforce will be more diverse than ever by 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (’06-’07) says. Hispanics are projected to be the fastest growing labor group, increasing by 33.7%, while women in the workforce will grow at a faster rate than men. Asian- and African-American labor groups will rise by 19% and 7%, respectively.

Clearly, we’re moving in the right direction, but disseminating cable’s message and attracting diverse talent are just the first steps. All employees need certain tools to succeed. Sometimes diverse employees need special training and development, mentoring and affinity groups, to name a few.

Recognizing this, Comcast has made nurturing and retaining our diverse employees top priorities, and we’re not alone. In a November survey by HR Executive Magazine, 75% of HR professionals rated talent retention as their top priority.

Comcast’s Emerging Leaders program is just one way we’re addressing development and retention. This year’s participants — more than 70% of whom are minorities — typically are in manager to VP positions. Each is assigned an executive-level mentor, who shares knowledge and skills with them. Taking our eye off development and retention would be a critical mistake. At risk would be the significant cost of losing diverse talent with its leadership potential and connections to the community, among other things.

While major strides have been made in diversity hiring and retention, we must do more. We must inspire students at every turn, and continue to build partnerships with diverse organizations and the communities they represent. While hiring, developing and retaining diverse talent may start with human resources, it is everyone’s responsibility. The cable industry has the resources to do this, and should do it not only because it’s right, but because it reflects the customer and supplier bases we serve and are served by. Our success depends on it.

Charisse Lillie is, SVP, human resources, Comcast Cable.

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