When Women in Cable & Telecommunications presents its prestigious Forerunner Accolades at its 20th annual benefit gala this week, the awards that go to the two companies deemed Best Operator and Best Programmer for women in cable will have been determined not by politics, whim or even committee decision, but by a detailed industry survey called the PAR Initiative.
Now in its second year, the initiative is perhaps the WICT Foundation’s crowning achievement in its ongoing effort to improve conditions for women in the cable industry. A loose acronym for pay equity, advancement opportunities and resources for work and life, PAR requires participating companies to answer a confidential, highly detailed questionnaire about the structure of their work force, pay scales, employment practices and benefit programs as they relate to gender.
From the answers, WICT and its partner in the initiative, Working Mother Media, have put together a snapshot of the cable industry that makes clear how far it has come in terms of gender equality, and how far it has to go.
The results are used not only to determine WICT’s Forerunner Accolade winners, but also to provide individualized, confidential feedback to the companies on how to improve employee diversity. In addition, WICT compiles a scorecard for the industry as a whole and names the five top operators and five top programmers for women in cable.
No one who has seen this year’s 15-page, 107-question survey has claimed these rankings are less than definitive. Last year the companies volunteering to fill out the questionnaire represented nine of the top 20 cable channels (by number of subscribers) and operators that serve 74 percent of U.S. subscribers, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. This year the number of participating companies rose from 28 to 32.
Decker Anstrom, president and chief operating officer of Landmark Communications and chairman of The Weather Channel, which last year was named cable’s best programmer for women, said the “genius” of the PAR Initiative is that it takes advantage of the natural competitiveness of companies in the industry.
“If they didn’t make that top five list last year, they all want to get there this year,” Mr. Anstrom said. “And if they were on the list, they’re going to be trying to make that first spot.”
WICT showcases the companies that perform well but, because of the confidentiality surrounding the survey, won’t say which ones fare poorly or refuse to participate. A WICT spokeswoman predicted that more firms would choose to take part in the future.
“As companies witness the strides that are made because of the feedback provided by the PAR Initiative, we will continue to see new companies participate and compete to be on the lists,” said Melissa Northern, WICT marketing and communications manager.
“We want [companies] to participate because we are trying to help them achieve diversity in their ranks, and they participate because they know that we provide valuable feedback.”