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Fostering Diversity in a Shifting Landscape

The T. Howard Foundation heads into its 22nd Annual Diversity Awards dinner with a continued goal of increasing minority employment within the telecommunications industry. The diversity advocate, which places interns into employment opportunities within the industry, will look to build upon its success placing 44 alumni into media industry positions last year, up from 36 in 2013. CEO Jo Pamphile discussed T. Howard’s strategy and goals with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead prior to the organization’s big March 25 fund-raising dinner in New York.

MCN: What’s the theme of this year’s dinner?

Jo Pamphile: Every year, the theme of our Diversity Awards Dinner remains the same: “Working together, we can make diversity an attainable goal.” At each Diversity Awards Dinner, our partners come together to support and celebrate what it takes to achieve the goal.

MCN: Talk about the dinner’s two award recipients, Fuse Media CEO Michael Schwimmer, who’s receiving the Executive Leadership Award, and actor/producer Tyler Perry, who will take home the Champion Award. Why did you feel the two were worthy of their respective honors?

JP: We are thrilled to honor two individuals who are serving a particular ethnic group in a way that has broad appeal. Under Michael Schwimmer’s leadership, NUVOtv is providing English-language programs for the English-speaking Latino community, a large and diverse population in itself. NUVOtv recently purchased Fuse, adding music to the mix in an effort to meet the needs and challenges of serving the fastest-growing multicultural group in the country. Including Jennifer Lopez as an investor and chief creative officer was a step in another direction that would appeal to this audience.

How does one begin to adequately describe Tyler Perry? He is a playwright, screenwriter, producer, author, songwriter, actor and philanthropist. However, given the challenges of his childhood, you could add overcomer to the list. You put all of this together and you have a success story that also serves as an inspiration to any young person or college student of color who dreams of seeing his or her writings come to life. Although his work predominantly focuses on the African-American community, Tyler Perry has been able to appeal to a broad, multicultural audience through his films and television programs.

MCN: What message do you want to convey to the industry with this year’s dinner?

JP: As the media industry changes, the foundation is working to strengthen the partnership we have with it by offering programs and services in such a way that enables us not only to meet the current needs of the changing industry, but to prepare our interns and Internship Program alumni for future needs as well. When we are aware of the skills and talent that the industry needs, we are able to shape our Internship Program’s recruitment, screening, interviewing and selection processes to identify the best diverse talent to meet those needs.

MCN: What is T. Howard’s overall business strategy for 2015? Any new marketing or promotional campaigns set for the year?

JP: We are excited to roll out two new services this year: the Diversity Advancement Program and Diversity Partners initiative. The Diversity Advancement Program provides opportunities to post job openings and join in professional recruitment webinars attended by our talent pool. Diversity Partners, on the other hand, is designed to work with advertising agencies, PR firms and smaller media companies interested in accessing diverse talent to fill positions at entry-level and above. We are proud to announce that the Grey Group is our first Diversity Partner.

MCN: What role will T. Howard play going forward in helping reach industry diversity goals?

JP: Our expansion from an internship program to a resource of diverse talent available for full-time hire has been a request of the media industry. In 2014, the industry hired 44 T. Howard alumni compared to 36 T. Howard Internship Program alumni in 2013. We expect the hiring numbers to increase as the number of T. Howard interns continues to grow. In 2014, the foundation welcomed a record 97 summer interns to the media industry. There were an additional 13 T. Howard-sponsored media interns in spring and fall internships. The Foundation’s Internship Program has existed since 1994, so our talent pool has depth.