Bruised in ’09, cable’s diversity groups are charging ahead in ’10, beginning with WICT.

The sigh of relief you hear is emanating from WICT, NAMIC and Kaitz supporters, thrilled that Diversity Week will return this fall after Cable Connection Week decimated the groups’ attendance in ’09.

The Kaitz dinner in NY in Sept ’08 hosted some 1300 guests; last year’s snowy soiree during Connection Week in Denver delivered a frosty 700. Similarly, numbers for WICT’s ’09 leadership confab were off nearly 50%; NAMIC also took a heavy hit. And there was no WICT Gala. "We’re glad to leave 2009 behind and jump into 2010," WICT Chair Ellen East says.

Indeed WICT, Kaitz and NAMIC are ready to rebound. Up first is WICT’s plan for Spring Connection Week, where it seeks to mix education with style. WICT’s Signature Luncheon on May 11 will get its style courtesy of Style Network’s stylish President Salaam Coleman Smith, its honorary chair, who’ll bring the lovely Giuliana Rancic to emcee. Lisa Ling will deliver an opening keynote.

The education comes as WICT honors 11 companies that led the ’09 PAR survey. PAR stands for Pay Equity, Advancement Opportunities, Resources for Work/Life Support. Three companies will be highlighted: Cox, Discovery and Scripps, which topped five PAR categories ( see box on next page).

But WICT’s energetic chief Maria Brennan, who joined cable’s largest membership group Oct 19, says the lunch will be more than "a congratulatory day." It will be "outcomes driven, showcasing diversity practices and beliefs" of Cox, Discovery and Scripps. It will be "not just motivational, but inspirational," she insists.

Mind the Gap

The lunch is part of Brennan’s larger plan for PAR. WICT has declared 2010 a Gap Year, says WICT SVP Parthavi Das. During Gap Years WICT will not conduct a PAR study, she says. Instead, the companies that participated in the ’09 PAR will use the year to address the guidance they received from the survey. "Each company that participates in PAR receives a detailed and confidential scorecard," Das says. The scorecard outlines ways the company can improve its standing in PAR’s various categories.

White Papers & Webinars

For this first Gap Year WICT has rolled out four Webinars and will issue two white papers addressing ways companies can improve their PAR standing, Das adds. The Webinars and white papers will be free to the entire industry, she says.

And speaking of a sigh of relief, cable executives have enthusiastically greeted the Gap Year. "As someone who worked on making changes to corporate culture [based on PAR results] and gathered data every year for PAR, I am a big supporter of the Gap Year," East says. The gap will give companies time to "dig deeper" into ways to improve gender diversity and pay equity, Das says. Adds Brennan, "It’s really tough to move that needle [at companies] every year and implement best practices."

In addition, the Gap Year will be "a breather that might encourage more companies to participate in PAR." Although with 35-40 companies regularly in PAR, "we already have a strong level of participation."

A Decent Report Card

As PAR shows, cable does reasonably well on gender diversity; however, the familiar caveat is that its C-suites could use more women (8 of 10 Presidents or CEOs accepting PAR awards at the lunch are men). And with 2 exceptions, no large operators have a woman at the top.

Pay equity issues exist, but nearly all PAR companies have procedures in place to alleviate them, a plus for cable, says Joanne Clever, President of Wilson-Taylor Associates, WICT’s research partner for PAR. Clever also notes opportunities for women in cable to advance and change their career direction are strong. "Cable retains women very well," she says.

A target for WICT, Clever and Brennan agree, is in tech, where women were 22% of workers, PAR shows. Recruiting women to cable tech at high schools and colleges is critical to fill the pipeline, they say. "It could be transformative," Brennan says. In ’03, WICT through PAR urged cable to encourage women to move into the then-emerging business-services field. Today women are 44% of its workers. "It shows when cable puts its mind to it, it can work," Clever says.

PAR’s Big Three

Cox is 7 for 7 in topping PAR as Best Operator for Women. This year it also was named Best Provider of Work/Life Resources. "Cox early on made diversity a priority," says 20-year Cox veteran Ellen East. "[CEO] Pat Esser grew up at Cox and he takes the corporate culture very seriously…employees are like family to him."

Discovery gets the nod as Best Programmer for Women. "It’s a really great honor for Discovery, especially since we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary," says Adria Alpert Romm, Discovery’s SVP of HR. Significant new hires have included senior women: cable vet Margaret Loesch to lead the Hasbro-Discovery venture, Christina Norman to run OWN and Laura Michalchyshyn at Planet Green. Add to that the promotions of TLC Chief Eileen O’Neill (who began at Discovery as an unpaid intern) and Animal Planet chief Marjorie Kaplan and you realize "Discovery is a place where women can grow," Alpert Romm says. Women are 56% of Discovery staff; 43% are in VPs and above, she says.

Scripps Networks gets two top honors, for Pay Equity and Opportunities for Women. "Young women in our organization see role models at all levels and in all functions," says Chris Powell, Scripps Nets’ EVP of HR. Hurdles ahead include Scripps’ overseas expansion. "HR needs to be able to quickly prioritize, customize and implement programs that are appropriate and effective globally," Powell notes.

Who, What, Where, When

Who: Cox, Discovery and Scripps

What: WICT Signature Lunch

Where: JW Marriott at LA Live!

When: May 11, doors open 11am for 11:30

Who: Honorees Imani Breaker, Matthew Hong and David Hudson

What: NAMIC Awards Breakfast Next Gen Leaders

Where: JW Marriott at LA Live!

When: May 13, 7:30 am

Fast Fact

  • In 6 seasons, the series won 8 Golden Globes and 7 Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy (2001), a first for cable.

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