Diversity pays in more ways than one

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Telecommunications companies that have implemented programs to recruit and retain female and minority employees have a higher number of both in their work forces and at higher levels of senior management, according to a survey by Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT).

As a result, those companies "report a positive impact on their bottom line," the survey said. "The initial results.show that, when companies invest in their employees by providing them with 'best practices' programs that fit their corporate culture, they have higher retention levels, save turnover costs and have a more diverse work force."

The survey also compared the demographics of telecommunications companies with average U.S. firms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46.3% of the nation's work force is female, compared with 38% in the telecommunications industry. BLS also found that women of color constitute 12.4% of the nation's work force, slightly less than the 14% in the telecommunications industry. Women and minorities tend to be relegated to junior-level jobs, though: Only 31% of senior-level positions in the telecommunications industry were occupied by women, the survey learned, and, of those, only 3% were women of color.

WICT revealed its preliminary findings last week and plans to release a white paper with more-comprehensive results in January. The survey garnered responses from 36 telecommunications companies, including AT&T, BET, Charter, Comcast, Comedy Central, Court TV, Cox, Discovery, Disney, E!, ESPN, HBO, Lifetime, Playboy, Showtime and Time Warner Cable. Ten of the 36 had a work force that was more than 50% female. The survey found that the companies with greater numbers of women in their ranks consistently spent more than $240,000 annually on work-life programs and that those programs were fully supported by senior management.

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