NAMIC’s primary goal will continue to be the expansion of diversity within cable’s upper ranks, says Kathy Johnson, who became the organization’s president six months ago. Almost two decades back Johnson entered cable as a Walter Kaitz Foundation Fellow with Times Mirror Cable TV. NAMIC will release its latest survey on cable workplace diversity this week, timed with the organization’s annual Diversity Week confab in New York. Have the senior management ranks at cable operators gotten more diverse over the last year? At this juncture, I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot of progress. I know that Comcast has put senior VPs in the marketing arena and elsewhere, like Marvin Davis. I’m not aware of any new senior hires at Time Warner. I’d have to wait to assess the results of our latest employment survey to be more definitive. Diversity advocates cite Verizon and AT&T as model organizations for their workplace diversity and multicultural marketing. What are they doing right? Verizon and AT&T have great reputations for having diversity in their senior management ranks—management with decision-making capacity. They have affinity groups [in the workplace representing] different ethnicities, like African-American, Hispanic and Asian. Those groups come together regularly to express their concerns, similar to the diversity council model a lot of companies in our industry have. That’s a process more companies should adopt. What specific complaints do you hear about cable operators? One of the common complaints you hear is that a person of color has to pay a premium price for a product that appeals to him or her. Making the price point accessible is important. There’s also still some people in cable who hold the opinion that urban or ethnic customers are high-risk and low-income, without recognizing that cable is a great value for people who are lower income, compared to other entertainment media. Now that more people of color oversee human resources departments, are you seeing more companywide diversity efforts? Human resource SVPs, VPs and directors can have some influence to insure a diverse slate of candidates for specific jobs, but in the end the decisions on diversity do come down to the hiring managers. You have to make sure the diversity effort is absorbed all the way down the ranks as a demonstrated commitment from the top. This is a priority the CEO buys into, as well as all senior management people. Getting in at the entry level is not an issue. The issue is advancing and retaining people once they do come in. Where do the barriers pop up in advancement? Historically, what we have seen is the barrier is breaking through past the director level to the SVP level. There’s lots of people at the bottom, a fair number in the middle. Proportionate to their representation in the general population, the cable industry is pretty much at parity. But when it comes to the senior level, SVP and above, that’s where we have a lot of work to do. Which cable companies—operators and programmers—would single out for their excellent diversity efforts? High marks to Scripps Networks. I love the fact that their entire executive committee is involved in their diversity council. Look at the companies nominating candidates for our Executive Leadership Development Program—MTV Networks, ESPN, Turner. They always have a large group of people at the VP level and above they are able to nominate for the program. Comcast and Time Warner Cable also have lots of nominees and are great ELDP supporters. Is there anything new on NAMIC’s agenda for 2007? We’re taking on more projects on multicultural marketing, picking up the slack from the CTAM committee, which was disbanded earlier this year. We also want to make NAMIC more of a go-to resource for information and data on multicultural media. At some point, we should do more research on diversity in programming and where it’s happening and not happening.