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Five Questions for Josephine Pamphile

Josephine Pamphile is president of the T. Howard Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to diversifying the employment ranks of the multichannel-television industry by offering summer internships for college students within cable and satellite companies. Nearly one year after taking the position, Pamphile talked to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about her goals for the foundation and its efforts to get all segments of the telecommunications industry to rally around its diversity efforts.

MCN: In your words, what’s the goal of the T. Howard Foundation?

JP: The foundation is looking to better position itself so that we can be viewed as a resource to the industry, as well as to the students and young women who are interested in coming into the industry.

We want to extend our existing [internship] program by increasing the number of interns and the number of participating host organizations. We also want to expand it from being a primarily summer internship to being a year-round program.

MCN: What are your impressions of the telecommunication industry’s diversity efforts?

JP: My experience is that there is always more work that could be done. [Last September’s] NAMIC [employment] survey has pretty much supported that fact. The industry is fast-growing and it’s reaching out to a broader audience.

With that in mind, there’s a need to have a more diverse staff, and there is a more concerted effort and commitment towards that goal. We see that through our own fund-raising dinner, and I’ve seen it through the industry’s support of the Walter Kaitz Foundation.

MCN: How do you attract more cable operators and companies to a foundation that for the most part is perceived as a satellite-based organization?

JP: I think if you look at where our interns are, they are all over the industry. We don’t target a particular industry; we like to say we’re technology-neutral. We’re placing our students where we can get an opportunity for them, where we have a participating host organization.

We have a mix of [communications] companies on our board. We have XM Satellite radio and cable and satellite [companies like] Fox Cable, HBO and Showtime.

The satellite connection comes from the namesake [direct-broadcast satellite industry pioneer] Taylor Howard, but Taylor Howard was also a person that made a commitment to diversity.

The mission is diversity, and that mission crosses technologies. The issue of diversity and the need for diversity is such that we can’t have enough companies working on it. Part of what we need to focus here on across industries and across technologies is the objective of diversity. That should be paramount.

MCN: Having said that, have you made inroads in talking to operators about participating in T. Howard?

JP: I did have a meeting at NCTA to discuss reaching out to cable operators and talk about our real purpose and mission. It’s one we know they share in as well. So we need to look at our common ground.

MCN: What should we expect from the Foundation in 2007?

JP: We want to place 50 interns in 2007. We’re also really looking to strengthen our alumni group — we have so many former interns that are in the industry, so we are now at a point where we’re getting feedback from those interns that are getting promotions and moving up in the industry. We want to utilize them more.

We are just committed to helping in whatever way we can to diversify this industry. We’re willing to listen and meet with anyone who shares that mission to figure out ways to work better collaboratively and in partnership with everyone.