Most of us in the multimedia and entertainment industry understand that diversity is a value added and something to be proud of. But let’s speak plainly: Diversity isn’t going to evolve. A truly diverse industry will happen because companies agree to make it happen. It will happen when companies have goals, targets and deadlines for it.
It’s clear that our industry is dynamic and continues to expand in many directions. With a larger subscriber base comes an audience with great diversity in age, gender and ethnicity. While this diversity has been a blessing for cable, it also brings unique challenges for programmers, operators and their HR departments.
One challenge is to increase diversity in the workforce to not only reflect the multiethnic audience, but to respond to the need for entertainment and information in a culturally sensitive way. How do we accomplish this? By recruiting and developing a staff that reflects the diverse customer-subscriber base.
I certainly won’t claim this will be easy, but it can be done. One way to begin is by going outside the circle of the known to the unknown. The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a good place to start. The various culture clubs on campus, the sororities and the fraternities that have local and national chapters are looking for opportunities for their students and members. Every year, Howard University’s School of Communication holds a job fair on its main campus in Washington, D.C. This national event is an excellent place to recruit students of color who are interested in this industry.
The HBCUs are not alone. Traditional colleges and universities also are reaching out to students of color. I visited Penn State University and met with representatives from its Engineering, Computer Science and IT schools. They are actively recruiting students of color from local high schools. The IT program has a seven-year strategic plan that includes a goal of having 40% students of color.
Boston’s Emerson College, a major source of talent for the multimedia and entertainment industry, has an Executive Director for its Center for Diversity in the Communications Industry.
Needless to say diversity organizations like NAMIC, WICT and T. Howard can help your company create alliances with HBCUs and other minority groups. We’re anxious to help.
Of course companies must create opportunities for employees to network and gain exposure to HR and Diversity executives. Every year there are events that recognize individuals and companies that have demonstrated their commitment to diversity. An excellent way to demonstrate your commitment is to make a conscious decision to have guests at your table who are diverse and reflect your customer base.
The next NAMIC Diversity survey results will be reported in 2008. In 2006 only 14 NAMIC companies reported, just seven of those participated in the 2004 survey. The 2006 report found that the number of people of color in middle management fell from 13 percent in the 2004 study to 11 percent. People of color in lower management dropped from 22.7 percent in 2004 to 20 percent.
We all want to report good news. There’s enough time to push these numbers up for the 2008 survey if we start immediately. Start with a commitment and a plan. We can do this!
Josephine T. Pamphile is president of the T. Howard Foundation.