Advancing the Cause of Diversity

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The 2007 conference of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications, which runs in conjunction with Cable Diversity Week, is taking place Sept. 16-18 at the Hilton New York in Manhattan. This year’s theme is “Diversity 2.0: The New Protocol,” which “ties in to the convergence of business platforms and companies keeping pace at the forefront,” said Kathy A. Johnson, president of NAMIC. “We want to provide the resources to help companies manage at the workplace.”
To that end, the 2007 conference is placing an emphasis on new technology. “We’ve added TV digital media over this past year and started to put some emphasis in that area,” Ms. Johnson said.
Keynote speaker for the 2007 conference is journalist Mariane Pearl, author of “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper will be on hand to accept the 2007 Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award, given to a person or organization that demonstrates a commitment to advancing the concerns of people of color. The 2007 Excellence in Multicultural Marketing Awards — which spotlight the cable industry’s dedication to developing strategic and creative approaches for ethnic-targeted marketing — also will be presented.
David L. Cohen, executive VP of Comcast Corp., and Andrew T. Heller, president of domestic distribution for Turner Broadcasting System, are honorary co-chairs of the conference, anchoring a roster of communications industry insiders and business leaders who will give their perspectives on corporate diversity and inclusion.
The conference will feature sessions on ad sales, multi-ethnic markets, leadership development and corporate diversity, including one entitled “The Only One in the Room.”
“We want to talk about what it’s like to be the only person of color in a meeting, and how to make that work,” Ms. Johnson said. “We also have a session called ‘Diversity Without Excuses,’ and another called ‘How to Be a Fearless Fish Out of Water.’ Whether it’s because of age, sex, color — it’s learning to turn those differences to your advantage in the corporate world.”
NAMIC has added a television writers’ workshop to this year’s conference. A panel of TV executives chose 15 writers who received free admission to the program. The workshop will be taught by playwright and TV writer Kermit Frazier (BBC’s “Ghostwriter”), who is also an associate professor at Adelphi University.
The writers’ workshop is funded by the Walter Kaitz Foundation, which started out “as an organization to bring people of color to management positions,” Ms. Johnson said, “and then became a grants foundation. They do a lot for us.”
NAMIC and VarietyCareers.com are sponsoring a career expo, which is free and open to the public. A&E Television Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, Discovery Communications, ESPN, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, New England Sports Network, Scripps Network, Starz Entertainment, the Weather Channel, Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros. and the New York Times are among the media companies participating. Last year’s expo attracted 1,100 job seekers.
The NAMIC organization has a staff of 10 and a core group of volunteers who help plan events such as this week’s conference. This year’s event-planning co-chairs are Marsha J. Conaway, regional vice president of human resources, Midwest region, for Time Warner Cable; Charisse R. Lillie, VP, human resources, Comcast Corp.; and Sandra Murillo Weber, VP, multicultural market development, Turner Broadcasting.
“We have a lot of CEO commitments [for the conference] and hope to have full discussions of diversity within corporations,” Ms. Conaway said.
Ms. Lillie, who helped develop a session on corporate diversity that will include panelists from Charter, Cox and Time Warner, pointed out that the NAMIC conference “is for every leader in our industry.”
“Diversity is not sitting in some box outside your office. Diversity is how we develop our employees, and to make sure there are opportunities for that development,” Ms. Lillie said.
NAMIC has invited the National Hispanic Corporate Council to participate in the conference, and Ms. Johnson hopes the inclusion of that group will further diversify the event.
NAMIC, which has 2,000 members and 17 chapters nationwide, has diversified its own programs to better serve its communities. The organization recognized about seven years ago that many African American families were without computers, which put parents and children at a disadvantage both in school and in the workplace.
To address that problem, NAMIC founded and oversees the Digital Bridge Alliance Project, which was designed to “target adults, to make sure they were computer-savvy,” Ms. Johnson said, “and to make sure they were informed so their children could have a chance.”
The ongoing project is an alliance between NAMIC and a number of technology companies that have provided computers, along with individuals who donate their time and expertise to raise the skill levels of targeted minorities. “It’s working,” Ms. Johnson said. “People started getting promotions at work.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Johnson hopes NAMIC will continue to help people “across the board. It’s really about making a difference and empowering people to fully participate in the prosperity of the industry,” she said. “We have to prepare people of color to make sure they’re ready for leadership roles, and also prepare the industry to ensure that the workplace is inclusive so they can attract top talent.”
What: 21st annual conference of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications
Where: Hilton New York, Manhattan
When: Sept. 16-18
Theme: Diversity 2.0: The New Protocol
Keynote speaker: Mariane Pearl
Details: namic.com


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