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Workforce Parity: Are We There Yet?

The results of the Women in Cable & Telecommunications Foundation's first PAR Initiative are in. As the industry absorbs the information and companies evaluate their own programs, we have a duty to examine where we want to go as an industry and how badly we want to get there. We must take the challenge as an industry to accept no less than total parity between men and women at all levels.

The PAR Initiative results can help us as we chart our course for the future and set the speed with which we want to reach our destination.

The primary focus of the PAR Initiative is to both measure and support the advancement of women in the cable and telecommunications industry in three arenas — pay equity, where women are paid equally to men at every level of the organization; advancement opportunities, where women are represented in equal numbers to men at every level; and resources for work/life support, where companies' work/life support practices enable the ongoing advancement of women at all levels.

By evaluating these standards in the first year of the PAR Initiative, the industry will have a valuable set of benchmarks with which it can measure growth and improvement.

While most of the findings of the PAR Initiative are in line with what we expected to see, the existence of quantitative data to support those findings is invaluable. These numbers validate the mission of Women in Cable & Telecommunications — to advance the position and influence of women through leadership programs and services and to challenge companies to create professional advancement opportunities for women. Some numbers, however, do stand out as startling.

Women make up 47% of the workforce in the United States. However, in the cable industry, only 39% of employees are women, and only 13% of employees are women of color, even though women of color make up 14.5% of the workforce. Representation in management is even lower, only 29% of managers are women, and only 6.5% of managers are women of color.

By continuing to participate in programs such as the PAR Initiative, and by closely examining recruitment, training and advancement efforts, the industry will be able to track its improvement in hiring, and promoting, women.

Cable companies in the survey uniformly believe their pay is equitable, but fewer than one in five formally review their salaries to back up that claim; only 36% of participants have pay-equity policies; and only 32% have ever corrected an inequity that has been brought to their attention.

The percentage of female managers in the industry, 29%, is well below the national average of 42%. Overall, this number is disturbing, yet closer examination of the numbers exposes an interesting divergence between operators and programmers. Operators tended to have similar percentages of women in management and women employees; however, the percentage of women decreases as the level of management increases.

Programmers face an entirely different challenge. Women are outnumbered by men three to one in management overall, but in the highest levels of management, there are almost as many women as men, which creates a lack of women moving up the ladder to replace those in the top tiers as they move on.

The numbers uncovered by the PAR Initiative demonstrate that each company must carefully evaluate the techniques it uses to train, advance and support its employees. Cable operators and cable programmers have two very different cultures, and the programs that work best for operators may not be those that work best for programmers. Only 25% of the participants stated that they tracked the results of their training and leadership programs to determine which programs had the highest rate of success.

By examining the Best Companies for Women in Cable lists, one important item to note is that the size of the company had no impact on its ability to advance and support the women within its ranks. The companies that made the lists were not necessarily the largest, or those with the most revenues, but those that did the most to empower their employees and contribute to their success by providing the resources to maintain a healthy work/life balance and the opportunities to advance within the organization.

We do not expect that changes within the industry will occur overnight, yet it is our sincere hope that companies will take seriously the findings of the PAR Initiative and use the results to measure their own growth and improvement. The PAR Initiative will be conducted annually. As more companies participate, the findings will provide a clearer picture of the industry as a whole.

The companies that participated in the first PAR Initiative represent operators/providers that serve over 74% of U.S. subscribers (according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, December 2002). Programmers participating in the PAR Initiative include nine of the top 20 channels, based on number of subscribers (NCTA, August 7, 2003).

The results of the first PAR Initiative show that we aren't there yet, but together we can get there.

Benita Fitzgerald Mosley is president of Women in Cable & Telecommunications. Ann Montgomery is chair of the WICT Foundation and regional senior VP, Mountain Division, Comcast Cable Communications Inc.