Kaitz Dinner Keeps Diversity Issue on the Table

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The purpose of the cable industry’s annual Kaitz Dinner is to raise money for diversity initiatives and to inspire the television business to implement meaningful changes in the area of diversity. Both are noble goals, but difficult to attain.
As part of this mission, the Walter Kaitz Foundation has enlisted a special guest for its 24th annual dinner this year: Martin Luther King III.
The second-oldest child of the late Martin Luther King Jr. will present one of the evening’s awards. Mr. King is the founding president and CEO of Realizing the Dream, an organization focused on diversity.
His connection to the television industry comes through AmericanLife TV Network, for which he is working on a documentary called “Poverty in America,” slated to premiere in early November. The documentary follows Mr. King’s tour across the country this year to raise the issue of poverty.
“We talk diversity, but I am not sure we have totally embraced diversity,” Mr. King said. “I don’t believe our society has truly embraced diversity enough. I think when you embrace human relations and sensitivity training, that helps. But I don’t think we have reached the mark yet.”
Minorities and women are still underrepresented in senior corporate ranks, and the disparity in pay between men and women persists, he pointed out. “When we get to the point where we don’t have to speak to the topic of diversity, that’s the goal.”
The Kaitz Dinner raises money to support the industry’s three diversity-focused associations — Women in Cable & Telecommunications, the National Association for Multi-
ethnicity in Communications and the Emma Bowen Foundation. Last year the dinner raised $1.5 million in funding for those three organizations and attracted nearly 1,300 attendees. The dinner is on track for similar results this year; Kaitz will release an official tally after the event.
“Fund-raising is the paramount objective of the dinner,” said Glenn Britt, president and CEO of Time Warner Cable and one of the co-chairs for the dinner. “No event raises more money from the cable industry than the Kaitz Dinner, which has earned well north of a million dollars in each of the last few years.
“The cable industry has made important strides over the years,” Mr. Britt added. “Diversity is no longer a term people associate with human resources alone. It is an important aspect of product and content development, it is key to marketing success and it is a vital consideration for management as we do business in an ever more competitive world.”
Among the highlights of the dinner will be the presentation of the Diversity Champion Award to ESPN and the Diversity Advocate Award to Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. The Diversity Advocate Award is presented annually to an individual outside the cable industry who has demonstrated a commitment to diversity, while the Diversity Champion Award goes to individuals or organizations that act as catalysts for diversity within the industry.
“By honoring ESPN, and its work on diversity, we hope that other companies will see what a consistent, high-level focus on diversity can do — and be motivated when they return home to do more,” said Decker Anstrom, president and chief operating officer of Landmark Communications and also a co-chair for the dinner. The industry has made strides in employing people of diverse backgrounds, but that commitment still needs to penetrate the most senior executive ranks more, he said.
The impact of the dinner’s fund raising manifests in several ways. NAMIC, for instance, recently expanded from a staff of two to a staff of 10 via a capacity-building grant from the Kaitz Foundation, said Kathy Johnson, president of NAMIC. “That enables us to serve our members better. We can deliver more programs to expand our reach and broaden the reach of our programs,” she said.
That includes a leadership seminar for middle managers in partnership with the Andersen School of Management at UCLA, Ms. Johnson said. NAMIC takes that program on the road to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Denver. By the end of this year, she estimates the program will have nearly 300 alumni.
The program is designed to help people of color grow into leadership roles. “We need to work on the issue of more diverse leadership at the top. There is some improvement, but there is room for growth,” she said.
Industry leaders acknowledge that the dinner is only a starting point for diversity awareness. “It provides an opportunity for the cable industry to stand in unity behind its commitment to diversity in its work force, in its content and in the supplier and vendor relationships we forge,” Mr. Britt said. “The dinner itself provides a dramatic reminder to all of us about the importance of diversity to our business success and serves as a keen reminder that there is always more to do.
“We need to move beyond job fairs and engage in direct relationships with more universities and technical schools that provide the resources for the next generation of cable industry leaders. And we need to find new ways to attract diverse middle- and senior-level executives from outside our industry.”
The dinner alone isn’t enough to make the necessary changes in the industry, but it can be a focal point, Mr. Anstrom said. “Most cable industry executives understand the business case for diversity. What the dinner can do is to help translate that understanding into action by showcasing best practices and results,” he said.
When: Sept. 19
Where: Hilton New York
Honorees: Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. (Diversity Advocate Award); ESPN (Diversity Champion Award)
Details: walterkaitz.org


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