After 25 Years, There’s Still Much to Do

In 2005, NAMIC (National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications) will celebrate its 25th anniversary. It is exciting to know that the organization has been part of a generation of the most rapid and remarkable changes in the cable industry.

From new technologies to programming to distribution, we have come so far in so many ways in what is really a very short time.

I am proud to say that NAMIC has also progressed during that time. We were pioneers in defining diversity for the industry when we launched, and since then we’ve seen dramatic changes. Yet through these changes, our membership and vision continue to grow as the reality of the industry and the new reality of diversity has shifted.

One need only witness the growth of our organization to see a change. In the last two years alone, the number of Hispanic professionals joining NAMIC has grown significantly, as we launched a chapter in South Florida and had our first-ever Hispanic president.

Beyond membership, our work has expanded to address the varied and distinct needs of this new generation of emerging leaders. From the exciting launch of the Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP), now entering its fourth year, to the continued success of the L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program, NAMIC has seen participation rise from year to year.

So much so, in fact, that in early 2005 we plan to launch a leadership development program for middle managers to meet the increased demand of the hundreds of cable employees of color who have joined NAMIC. Additionally, we plan to launch an executive coaching program for our ELDP alumni by the end of this year.

The theme of the upcoming 18th Annual NAMIC Conference, “Redefining the Spectrum: The Multi-Ethnic Connection,” speaks to the ever-changing needs of a workforce that is broader in its range of colors, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds than at any time in the nation’s history.

This new workforce, by virtue of its unique experiences, brings new ideas, energy and market intelligence to an industry that is increasingly segmented and desperately in need of innovative ways to reach new audiences and consumers.

The myriad seminars, panels and workshops at the conference will give its participants the opportunity to explore the possibilities and the challenges of this new diversity in depth.

A CEO roundtable featuring top decision-makers in cable will examine the state of diversity in the industry and discuss the results of NAMIC’s groundbreaking research, “A Look Toward Advancement: Multi-Ethnic Employment in Telecommunications.” The survey, a barometer for assessing opportunities and progress, was done in partnership with DiversityInc, the premier national magazine on the issue.

The important role of mentoring in business success will be discussed in a lively series of workshops at a breakfast hosted by more than 30 corporate executives who have served as mentors to many rising professionals.

Along with diversity comes necessarily unique strategies for outreach to the diverse marketplace. Several conference forums will benchmark competitive strategies for marketing to the African-American, Hispanic, and Asian markets.

In a year where the future of the nation is at the top of everyone’s thinking, we think there is no more important discussion than how diversity impacts that future.

In theory, the times and the need would seem to be at perfect confluence to expand diversity efforts. Still, we find a great number of employees who want to be a part of NAMIC’s work, either through membership or convention attendance, continue to meet with resistance.

While many enlightened CEOs and senior executives in the industry have long since bought in to the value of organizations like NAMIC and the benefits of staff participation in chapters and national events, the message still tends to get lost among those who have day-to-day influence or control over an employee’s ability to participate.

That means that company leaders who have been around long enough to see and savor the benefits of diversity have made a commitment to seeing it work, while managers with less experience have taken diversity for granted, assuming that all the work that needs to done has already been completed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While the percentage of minority representation has improved by leaps and bounds in the industry overall, reasons to cheer become few when one goes further up the corporate ranks. At cable channels that don’t target minorities, executives of color in positions of influence and power remain a small and exclusive club.

That will change, of course. It will have to. For, beyond the needs of employees are the needs of our target markets. And those markets are increasingly dynamic in their scope and driven by a wide range of influences that are rooted in new definitions of culture, race and creativity.

In this environment, we can continue to chase trends and always be one step behind, or we can involve the people who are responsible for innovation and be a part of the future.

That’s the promise of diversity — and the reality.

After all, we have nearly 25 years of success to show how well diversity can work. If it is true that in corporate America what is measured is done, then we should have all the measurements we need. Diversity works. Now let’s get it done.