Time Warner’s 'Diversity Champion’

Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt is one of four cable executives receiving the first-ever Walter Kaitz Foundation “Diversity Champions” award for advancing multicultural initiatives within their respective companies. Britt talked to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead to discuss his thoughts on diversity and Time Warner’s efforts in reaching multicultural goals. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: First, let me congratulate you on being honored as a Walter Kaitz Foundation diversity champion.

Glenn Britt: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged. Obviously there are other people in the industry doing similar things, but I certainly feel very honored and somewhat humbled by it. I also think its great for Time Warner Cable because we have been doing a lot on this front that hasn’t been recognized in the past.

MCN: Are there any things that stand out in your mind that Time Warner has done to advance diversity within the company?

GB: I’m going to answer your question slightly differently. I was at a Time Warner diversity session [recently]. As is typical with these sessions, everyone got very energized and wanted to go back to their different parts of the company and start working on diversity.

Then a woman stood up — a female person of color — and she said, 'This is great that we’re all energized about diversity, but if you’re really committed to diversity, let’s stop and think for a moment about what that is, because if you’re really committed to it you’re embarking on a very difficult and long journey.’

She went on to say that typically when people talk about diversity, they go back to their departments and say if we hire a few more females or people of color, then we have done what we have to do. But diversity is really a lot more than that.

Diversity is about truly embracing, seeking and welcoming all different kinds of people with all kinds of different opinions and different ways of thinking. It’s about respecting those viewpoints, listening and using them to come up with the best business decisions for the company.

That requires a culture that acts the way I just described, and that’s what we’re trying to do at Time Warner Cable. Diversity has been a value of Time Warner and its predecessor companies for a long time, so I think we’re just continuing it.

MCN: Are you satisfied with the progress Time Warner has made up to this point?

GB: You can’t ever be satisfied until you get there, but I think we’re beginning to make a lot of progress.

MCN: What about cable in general? Are the diversity goals you talked about achievable industry-wide?

GB: Obviously it’s hard to generalize, and every company isn’t the same, but I think that with the larger [cable] companies — which I’m most familiar with — there is a great deal of focus on this subject, and we’re all making progress. I could quote statistics, but I don’t think it’s about that as much as it is about attitude.

MCN: What specifically is Time Warner doing to implement diversity within the company?

GB: We’re doing all the things people talk about as best practices. We have diversity councils; we have diversity training; we have a major focus on building relationships with minority vendors. And we factor diversity into people’s annual goals.

All of those are important, but I think the most important thing is for the leadership of the organization to say that diversity is important and then effecting change in our culture and our attitudes towards one that’s open and diverse. If the leadership is consistent about that, then that’s how you get there. But it takes a long time. I think that’s what we have at Time Warner, and that’s how we’re going to get there.

MCN: With regard to content, are you encouraging the rollout of services that targets Time Warner subscribers of various ethnic communities?

GB: Yes we’ve done that for a long time. The cable business is predominately a local business, and every community across the country has its own makeup of demographics, ethnic groups, and we try to do as good a job as we can matching our channel lineup with each community.

MCN: How important is it for Time Warner to recognize the value of diversity from a business standpoint?

GB: I think its cliché to say it’s an imperative, but it is for a number of reasons. The first is that at a time of change and more competition, we need the very best people we can find. That means we need to hire from 100% of the population. Anybody who isn’t doing that is shortchanging their company, because they’re leaving good people out. That should be self evident, but sometimes it’s not.

The other thing is because our marketplace is changing quickly — and because our technology is changing quickly — we need a diverse set of viewpoints. And I think that’s the most important thing for me.

Whatever business problem we happen to be facing at the moment, it’s important we have people that come from all different backgrounds and experiences, so that they can bring their expertise to the problem. If you have that, you maximize the chance of successfully solving that problem, whatever it may be.

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.