By Sherri Killam-Williams
Women may have come a long way, baby, but not far enough, especially in the cable industry, according to data collected by Women in Cable & Telecommunications.
With assistance from organizations such as the Walter Kaitz Foundation, WICT launched a survey in 2003 to measure and support the advancement of women in the cable and telecommunications industries. The so-called PAR Initiative focused on the areas of pay equity, advancement opportunities and resources for work/life support. Working Mother Media partnered with WICT to implement the PAR Initiative and interpret the results.
“I think, looking at the numbers, that we’re not as far as we think we are,” said Melissa Northern, WICT marketing and communications manager. “There was a study by the [General Accounting Office] last fall on the glass ceiling and the pay for women. It showed women receiving 80 cents for every dollar men receive. People look around and they see a woman or a person of color and they say, `We’re all right here,’ but they don’t look around and see nine men. They see that one person.”
WICT President and CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley said the consolidation of the cable industry has narrowed the prospects for advancement for all people, especially women and minorities.
“Having a more vertical industry really has some effect on diversity in that fewer women and fewer people of color have opportunities. Businesses have to do what businesses have to do, but we need to ensure that we include women and people of color in that mix in companies and don’t fall back on what’s familiar to us,” Ms. Mosley said.
Ms. Mosley, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, said the PAR Initiative taps into people’s competitive nature. “[The companies surveyed] want to be the best companies for women in cable,” she said, adding that these companies also compete for the best talent.
“[The study] helped companies look at what they’re doing and be a little more methodical and help advance women in this industry,” Ms. Mosley said.
Companies that participated in the PAR Initiative received a confidential scorecard and saw how their numbers matched up with the industry average.
The 2003 PAR Initiative showed that women made up 38.7 percent of the work force in all cable companies. Programmers had a higher proportion of women in their work force at 48.1 percent, compared with 37.9 percent for cable operators. The percentage of women managers in all cable companies was 29 percent, with operators having 38.2 percent and programmers only 11.7 percent.
The proportion of women in middle management stood at 19.7 percent in cable companies overall-24.3 percent of cable operators and 14.1 percent of programmers. The numbers rose for senior executives-19.1 percent for operators, 37.8 percent for programmers and 26.7 percent overall.
Even fewer women of color were employed by the cable industry, representing only 13 percent among cable operators and 15 percent among programmers. A 2004 PAR Initiative is in the works and will be ready in November.
“What the PAR Initiative shows is that there are not women in the pipeline to take these women’s places when they retire or leave the industry,” Ms. Northern said. “Through programs like the PAR Initiative, WICT can bring that to people’s attention in the industry and train middle managers so we don’t suffer that shortage in the pipeline.”
Developing strong women leaders for the cable and telecommunications industry is one of the ways WICT can facilitate change in the cable industry, Ms. Mosley said.
“WICT develops women leaders who can transform the industry,” she said. “By creating a network of 4,500 women in 22 chapters we can get together and learn how to be better and stronger leaders. We want them in turn to transform the industry to make the businesses stronger,” she said. “Programs like the WICT Forum and Betsy Magness Leadership Institute help us to develop leaders.”
Funding from the Kaitz Foundation helps WICT increase the number of scholarships for its annual forum. Receiving a Kaitz grant brings WICT more than money, Ms. Mosley said. It also garners attention for the organization from powerful and influential people in the industry who serve on the Kaitz and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association boards.
“They get to know us better and the value we bring to their employees and the industry,” she said.