By Sherri Killam-Williams
“Embrace Diversity. Embrace Success.” That directive from the Web site of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications clearly spells out the goal of the organization, which counts more than 1,000 members in 17 chapters across the United States.
Founded in 1980 as the National Association for Minorities in Cable to raise awareness, expand opportunity and shape the future, NAMIC has evolved into an organization that takes an active role in promoting diversity in the industry.
NAMIC continues to be a necessary part of today’s world, said Kathy Johnson, executive VP of the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based organization.
“Because it’s a membership organization, it helps members with skill development so they’ll be prepared to take advantage of opportunities. It’s also great for providing networking opportunities and helping retain women and people of color in the industry,” Ms. Johnson said.
NAMIC is one of three groups that will receive Walter Kaitz Foundation grants this year. The Kaitz Foundation was established in 1983 to promote diversity in the cable industry.
A Kaitz grant helps fund the continuing learning portion of NAMIC’s Executive Leadership Development Program at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. This program focuses on diversity issues such as retaining managers of color and managing work force diversity in a global economy.
“The expectation is that it will help give people of color additional tools to navigate those relationships and guide their careers within the cable industry,” said Bernard Bell, executive VP of sales and marketing at TV One and a NAMIC board member.
So far, 85 people have graduated from the program, which began in 2001. This year more than 70 candidates were nominated for 30 available spots.
“The industry has been very responsive to our programs. Companies are inclined to look at people of color who have high potential for succession,” Ms. Johnson said.
“More than a third of the alumni have received job promotions either concurrent with their participation or after the program, and we have a very strong alumni workshop that has been funded by the Kaitz Foundation,” she said.
Researching cable’s minority work force also has been a focus of NAMIC. In 1999 the group conducted a study, “A Look Towards Advancement: Minority Employment in Cable,” that showed minorities were underrepresented in the executive suites of the cable industry. This was true even though their total representation in the industry was equal to their representation in the general population (30 percent) and greater than their representation in the total work force (26 percent).
A second study, conducted in 2002, found the situation for minorities in the boardroom to have improved somewhat. In the latter survey, the proportion of minorities holding upper-management positions increased to 7 percent, a gain of 2 percent from 1999.
“Companies have started to take diversity a lot more seriously than in the past,” Ms. Johnson said. “The 2000 census was a wake-up call for a lot of them. They saw their customer base changing and decided they needed to address that and be able to connect with that customer base.”
As the cable industry continues to change, people’s perceptions must also change, Ms. Johnson said. A NAMIC survey found that people of color in the cable industry don’t believe company executives are as committed as they should be to the cause of diversity.
“Providing information to companies showing them the perceptions that exist can give them the information they can use to make changes internally,” she said. “At the end of the day, the change has to occur internally. No trade organization can mandate change. It has to come from the top down.”
The results of the latest NAMIC study will be revealed during Diversity Week. DiversityInc is NAMIC’s partner in the study.
NAMIC projects include an annual conference held during Diversity Week and the L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program, whose goal is to promote diversity by partnering cable executives with NAMIC members to help them with career development strategies.
Other NAMIC programs include an online job bank, the Annual Vision Awards, Annual Awards Breakfast, Digital Bridge Alliance, Diversity Roundtable and Annual Holiday Benefit Gala. n
Lee Hall contributed to this story.