In 1981, thanks to the generous financial contributions made possible by the late Walter Kaitz, the Walter Kaitz Foundation became the first of its kind in the media industry – a non-profit organization devoted to providing recruitment opportunities for people of color in the cable industry. Since 1981, the Foundation has supported the people and programs that make diversity in the cable industry a priority. We grow and evolve with the cable industry, changing our programs to meet the needs of cable’s changing landscape.
During its formative years, the cable industry embraced a commitment to be early practitioners of diversity and inclusion and worked to establish a foundation focused on integrating its executive suites with people of color who reflected the diversity of its customers.
Initially, the Foundation provided a year-long fellowship program for professionals of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and women seeking to transition as executives into the cable industry. The professional backgrounds of the individuals selected to participate in the program included MBAs, attorneys, engineers and individuals who represented a broad array of other professions.
In the 1990’s, the Foundation expanded its thriving Fellowship Program to a focus on permanent executive career placement that included professional development, networking and mentoring opportunities. At the end of decade, more than sixty-five percent of the Kaitz Fellows and Alumni in the industry were Vice Presidents or Directors or held managerial positions.
As more companies within the cable industry began to establish stronger internal diversity recruitment efforts, the role of the Kaitz Foundation shifted to better assist with growing diversity initiatives.
By 2001, the Fellowship Program was discontinued with the focus shifting to overseeing an industry-wide supplier diversity program, a broad grants-giving program and a community outreach program. By 2004, the Foundation launched an industry-wide supplier diversity initiative and increased its outreach to community organizations.
Three years later, the Foundation relocated from California to Washington, D.C. and began to narrowly focus its distribution of grants to The Emma L. Bowen Foundation, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) and Women in Cable & Telecommunications (WICT). These three organizations focused primarily on internships, leadership development and mentoring for ethnic minorities and women in the cable industry.
In the last decade, the Walter Kaitz Foundation has become the official diversity arm of the telecommunications industry. Each year, the Foundation bestows grants in excess of $1 million to support initiatives and programs that promote diversity and inclusion.
One unremitting aspect of the organization has been the annual fundraising dinners, which started in 1984 with an event held in the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Since then, the Annual Fundraising Dinner has become the centerpiece of what is now known as “Diversity Week,” a series of cable industry events that take advantage of the conglomeration of colleagues in New York.
Starting in 2019, the T. Howard Foundation, which focuses on programs for diverse college students, will be included in the Foundation’s distribution of grants.
Walter Kaitz, a Russian immigrant who settled in Boston, appreciated the promise of the American dream – that everyone had a chance for success regardless of who they were or from where they came.
He obtained his undergraduate degree from Harvard University through a scholarship for newspaper boys and after seven years in the U.S. Army, Walter Kaitz worked his way through law school at the University of California by selling shoes in his spare time. From there he went on to work in the California State Legislature and then the CCTA, holding fast to his strong belief that everyone could and should be given the opportunity to prosper in our democracy.
As one of the most respected leaders of the CCTA, Walter Kaitz recognized the importance of diversity and understood that in order to continue competing in the global marketplace, the industry needed to build a management team reflecting an increasingly diverse U.S. population.
Walter Kaitz died in 1979 before his dream of meaningful inclusion was fully realized, but during his tenure at the CCTA, he advocated for fairness and inclusion, and believed that the cable industry should strive toward fostering diverse management teams in order to compete successfully in the global marketplace. He was succeeded by his son Spencer as leader of the CCTA, who like his father before him, strongly believed that diversity and inclusion were critical to the growth and prosperity of the cable television industry.
Upon his death, financial contributions, made in honor of Walter formed the basis of the founding of the Walter Kaitz Foundation. Initially, activities were driven only by the desire to do something to honor the memory of Walter but by 1981, a keen focus was developed to provide recruitment opportunities for more minorities in the growing cable industry.