Why Minorities Aren't Rising

NAMIC's new study sees a management gap; are CEOs paying attention?

When someone says they “work in television,” it tells so much. And so little. Television careers range from working in ad sales to marketing, engineering, news and entertainment, to name just a few. With the big National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communicatons annual conference in New York this week, B&C takes a look at diversity in the workplace. On the pages that follow, we point to a variety of opportunities in a business that is as exciting as it is fast-moving.

The cable industry has a relatively diverse workforce, and it's becoming increasingly multicultural.

But a survey to be released this week by the National Association of Multi-ethnicity in Communications also finds that serious problems persist, notably a dearth of minorities in management and a dwindling commitment by CEOs to ensure a diverse workplace.

“There's good news and there's bad news,” says Kathy Johnson, president of NAMIC, which conducts the survey every two years. “The industry performs best in human capital. We're not where we need to be, but there have been improvements since the last survey. As to why CEO commitment is in decline, it may be that this simply isn't a business priority.”

Overall, according to documents received by B&C, minorities account for 29% of the workforce at the companies NAMIC studied, up from 26% in 2004.

This year, the number of minorities in senior management doubled to 14% from 7% in 2004. That may sound better than it is, however, because the number of top positions is so small to begin with.

There were declines in both middle management and among managers of lesser rank, called lower management in the study.

People of color now account for 11% of middle-management positions, down from 13%. And minorities represent 20% of lower managers, down from nearly 23% in 2004.

This year's survey will be released at NAMIC's 20th Annual NAMIC Conference. It monitors 14 cable firms—10 networks with 19,000 total employees, and four cable operators with 89,000 employees. The survey was conducted by Newark, N.J.-based DiversityInc Media. Participating companies were not publicly identified.

The survey examines areas related to minority employment: CEO commitment, human capital, corporate communications and supplier diversity.

Managing Human capital

“Sometimes when people have been with a company for a while and don't get promoted, they leave,” says Johnson. “It also speaks to recruitment. Are we reaching out and making the right connections and looking in the right places to find more people of color?”

By comparison, 25% of the lower managers are people of color in the 50 most diverse companies, according to a separate study conducted earlier this year by DiversityInc.

“There are a number of reasons for this,” notes Luke Visconti, partner and cofounder of DiversityInc. “The first is that this needs to be actively managed. Human beings are predisposed to want to deal with people who look just like them. Because you're not a bigot and you have the best intentions, you'd like to think this will take care of itself. It never does.”

He also says that some people of color have not accrued enough time working in the industry to qualify for management positions.

“But that's not the entire reason,” he says. “There are companies that will recruit from outside the industry to get that representation. The cable industry tends to be very insular, which compounds the problem. If you don't recruit from outside and the representation at the top of the industry isn't there yet, you're predicting your outcome.”

Spreading the News

Meanwhile, NAMIC also found this year that multi-system operators and cable networks do a poor job with external communications, at least relative to DiversityInc, which compiles data to determine the 50 most diverse companies in the entire U.S. business world.

Only 38% of respondents to this year's survey have a section about diversity on their Websites, for example. That compares to 88% of the 50 most diverse companies.

And, only 4% of advertising budgets among responding NAMIC companies were placed in multicultural—and gay and lesbian—outlets, compared to 13% among the most diverse companies.

But NAMIC companies outperformed the 50 most diverse companies in terms of supplier-diversity programs, which is measured by the amount of business conducted with companies owned by minorities and women.

The most troubling finding is the decline in CEO commitment to diversity.

The current study finds that only 38% of CEOs are actively committed to hiring a diverse workforce. NAMIC defines that as the percentage of CEOs who personally sign off on tying executive compensation to diversity metrics.

The percentage of CEOs now committed to diversity by this definition has tumbled from 50% two years ago.

DiversityInc's Visconti notes that comparisons to previous years can be misleading because only half of this year's participating companies also responded to the previous survey.

Still, he says, “The numbers aren't great. The CEO commitment is related to the CEO's personal involvement in managing diversity. Does the CEO compensate top management based on diversity goals? Does the CEO ensure that there's a diversity statement in corporate mission statements? All these things indicate a personal responsibility.”

Ideally, Johnson says, CEOs should be part of an internal diversity council.

“The person responsible for diversity management should also report directly to the CEO,” she advises.

“And there's more focus on diversity in companies where the diversity practitioner is a separate function from human resources. There should be a specific, dedicated focus on diversity because people in HR may be distracted by other responsibilities.”