WICT, NAMIC Power Up a Virtual Diversity Week

The coronavirus pandemic has not dampened the interest and importance of Diversity Week within the cable industry, as WICT and NAMIC will hold their respective annual conferences virtually this week.

From in-depth video keynotes and panel sessions to virtual happy hours and meet and greets, the groups will look to make the virtual WICT Leadership Conference (Oct. 5-6) and the 34th Annual NAMIC Conference (Oct. 6-9) as informative and enlightening as past in-person Diversity Week gatherings. 

“There will always be a need for diversity and inclusion,” National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington said. “Given the fact that we are in a pandemic environment and given the overall environment that we are operating in as a country, what NAMIC brings to bear in a general nature is clearly more important for our audience this year.” 

More on Diversity Week: Celebrating a Legacy During Unusual Times

Women in Cable Telecommunications president and CEO Maria Brennan said this year’s conference theme, “The Power of Resilience,” is fitting given the challenges the industry and the country has faced this year. 

“When you think about the images we’ve seen on TV and the documentaries that our members have been developing that capture what has been going on in the country, it shows the resiliency of the human spirit,” she said.

WICT president and CEO Maria Brennan with Princess Beatrice of York and Walter Kaitz Foundation executive director Michelle Ray at last year’s WICT Conference in New York.

WICT president and CEO Maria Brennan with Princess Beatrice of York and Walter Kaitz Foundation executive director Michelle Ray at last year’s WICT Conference in New York. (Image credit: Lawrence Busacca/Getty Images for WICT)

Attendance Holding Up  

Despite the unprecedented virtual venue for this year’s conferences, both WICT and NAMIC said registrations are pacing well against traditional attendance marks. 

Between live registrations and on-demand signups, WICT said it has surpassed all previous Leadership Conference attendance numbers with 843 registered attendees as of Sept. 2. 

NAMIC reported that registrations are 40% higher for this year's conference than for last year's live event.

As with previous conferences, WICT and NAMIC will partner for a joint general session on Oct. 6 focused on creating successful Employee Resource Groups that will include AMC Networks chief transformation and people officer Jennifer Caserta; Altice USA executive VP of government and community affairs and chief diversity officer Lee Schroeder; and Comcast executive director of diversity and inclusion Mini Timmaraju. 

While most of the WICT Leadership Conference sessions will be pre-produced, Brennan said that some elements of the conference will be presented live. 

“What’s cool about the conference is that it’ll be pretty hard to discern what’s live and what’s not,” she said. “It’s going to feel like you’re very much walking into the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis — the only difference is that you can go in your sweats.” 

WICT’s opening morning on Oct. 5 will feature a “Super Session” featuring Today host Sheinelle Jones and Comcast VP of local media development Ebonne Ruffins, followed by a keynote session featuring Deborah Gruenfeld, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s School of Business. Also on the agenda are appearances by NCTA: The Internet & Television Association president and CEO Michael Powell, Discovery Inc. chief programming content and brand officer Kathleen Finch and TV One general manager Michelle Rice. 

Brennan said the conference will also continue with its popular “Pearls of Wisdom” session on Oct. 6, which features mini-keynotes from industry leaders. eatured speakers include HGTV president Jane Latman, attorney and TV host Eboni Willams and Diversability CEO and founder Tiffany Yu.

Overall, Brennan said the conference will offer 25 hours of programming across two days. “The beauty of it is you can consume it at your own pace,” she said. “As the program progresses it becomes on demand content.”

The NAMIC Conference’s  theme — “Building a Legacy: The Future is Now” — celebrates the organization’s four decades of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within the cable and communications industry workforce, Washington said. 

The four-day conference will offer keynote and breakout sessions that would have been offered concurrently under normal circumstances. “In the past people had to make a choice as to which ones to attend, but we’re not doing any overlapping programming this year as part of the conference,” she said. 

NAMIC will kick things off with its L. Patrick Mellon Mentoring Session, featuring WarnerMedia executive VP and chief enterprise inclusion officer Christy Haubegger and Essence Communications co-founder, CEO and publisher Ed Lewis. Oct. 8’s session will bring together ViacomCBS president and CEO Bob Bakish, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises executive VP chief administrative and marketing officer Mónica Gil, Black News Channel president and CEO Princell Hair and Revolt Media & TV co-head and chief operating officer Detavio Samuels for a virtual Town Hall Meeting on Race and Relevancy in the Workplace, according to Washington. 

The organization will also recognize its Next Generation Leaders, Luminaries and Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award honoree during its Oct. 7 annual awards ceremony (see related story, page 16), as well as host a  Virtual Red Carpet and ELDP Graduation Ceremony on Oct. 9.

NAMIC president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington

This year, Brennan and NAMIC president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington (above) will welcome attendees virtually. (Image credit: NAMIC)

Rethinking Future Events

Washington said the ability for conference registrants to attend all of the conference sessions either live and on demand has helped build awareness and interest in the conference. She added that the situation has also forced NAMIC to rethink how it will operate future NAMIC Conferences. 

“It forces you to think about how you do business differently,” she said. “However the new normal will look when we open back up again, I think it’s safe to say that NAMIC will be looking at virtual opportunities for programming delivery from here on out.”

Brennan said future WICT Conferences would also look different post-pandemic.

“Everybody is going to have a different tolerance for crowds and live events after COVID-19 is under control, so for us there will be in the foreseeable future a hybrid approach to this event,” she said. “The WICT Leadership Conference is that one event in which all of our masses can get together, so we may continue to have some events online in the future.” λ

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.