Diversity Week 2020 – A Virtual Roundup

Each year during Diversity Week, an allied group of organizations gather to showcase their organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and chart the course for advancing the cable industry’s diversity practices.  This year due to the challenges arising from the pandemic, the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) Leadership Conference and National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Annual Conference were held virtually and the Walter Kaitz Foundation chose to forego the annual Fundraising Dinner celebration.  Despite Diversity Week looking a little different, participants had an enthusiastic response and were impressed with the  array of speakers and thought leaders.  Here are some highlights of the week.

WICT Leadership Conference 
October 5-6

The theme for this year’s WICT Leadership Conference was the “Power of Resilience” and featured more than 25 hours of interactive and transformational platforms featuring a diverse mix of talent, key industry executives, and thought leaders in a program aimed at advancing the leadership skills and business acumen of women in the industry. Highlights from the Conference included a panel discussion with female leaders including TV One’s General Manager Michelle Rice, Discovery’s Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer, Kathleen Finch, and Liberty Global’s Soraya Loerts.  They discussed the new ways their companies are adapting to a business environment impacted by COVID-19 with a focus on employees’ health and well-being.

In the Super Tuesday Keynote session, Michelle Ray, Executive Director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation moderated a discussion with Dr. Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO of Character Lab and author of the New York Times bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “Grit is having the stamina to stay in something for the long game, whether it’s building a great company or working towards social equity,” said Duckworth.

Asked about what we can take away from both the pandemic and the social unrest happening now, Duckworth offered that people with grit learn from their experiences, whether good or bad and they ‘keep getting up.’  Because Duckworth says, so much of human behavior is mimicry, leaders can foster grit within their organizations by modeling it themselves.  “If you are kind, they will model kindness, if you are respectful, they will model respectfulness, and if you are gritty, they will model grit,” offered the 2013 MacArthur Fellow.

Duckworth also offered that women tend to underestimate their abilities, and while this is not optimum, she says women also tend to work harder.  Finally, as we learn to adjust to our new normal, she offers that coping during challenging times means looking for ‘silver linings.’  For many of us that means no commute or being able to have breakfast as a family or being able to work in your pajamas, she concluded.

This year’s WICT Leadership conference enjoyed record attendance during its first-ever virtual program. More than 860 industry professionals registered for the conference, surpassing the previous record attained in 2018. Registered attendees can view the content until the end of the calendar year using the same links for the live event, and an on-demand option will be made available for purchase for those that missed the conference.

Michelle Ray and Angela Duckworth

Michelle Ray and Angela Duckworth

34th Annual NAMIC Conference
October 6-9

Attendees at the 34th Annual NAMIC Conference under the theme “Building a Legacy: The Future is Now,” convened over four days for wide-ranging educational sessions and networking opportunities designed to increase diversity and inclusion throughout the cable and communications industry. Industry leaders led 12 panels, breakout sessions, workshops and an interactive sponsor showcase which allowed participants to network as if they were in a live-event setting.

Highlights from the 34th Annual Conference included the Startup Pitch Competition and a ceremony to honor recipients of Next Generation Leaders and the Luminaries Awards. NAMIC also honored Rep. John Lewis (D-GA.) with the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Achievement Award for his decades-long crusade to end systemic racism.

The Walter Kaitz Foundation staff enjoyed the opportunity to network in the virtual sponsor showcase with industry colleagues including Carvel Wallace, from AMC Networks, Thomas Martinez from Charter Communications, and Lee Griffen from Cox Communications and many more.

This year’s virtual format saw a 40 percent increase for NAMIC in registrants compared to last year.

NAMIC Town Hall

NAMIC Town Hall

An Industry United

The Walter Kaitz Foundation funds programs offered by both WICT and NAMIC, including the L. Patrick Mellon Mentoring Program.  The Walter Kaitz Foundation (WKF) was again the sponsor of the L. Patrick Mellon Mentoring Session: “The Value of Mentoring” jointly hosted by NAMIC and WICT.  Ed Lewis, co-founder, CEO, and publisher Essence Communications, Inc. was joined by his mentee Christy Haubegger, EVP, Chief Enterprise Inclusion Officer, WarnerMedia for a discussion on the roles of mentors in furthering careers.  The session was moderated by James Anderson of WarnerMedia.

This noteworthy conversation between Lewis and Haubegger explored key aspects of successful mentoring, and its ability to build leaders, launch dream careers, and create legacies. Lewis, who founded Essence in 1969, was a mentor to Haubegger, the then founder in 1996 of Latina Magazine, one of the titles under the Essence Communications banner.  According to Lewis, the combination of these two demographics – Black and Latinx women – opened doors to reach millions who were not represented in the publishing world.

The two discussed the twists and turns in their careers that led to the founding of both publications.  As might be expected, neither planned for the careers that led to their success, rather both planned to become lawyers.  It was because of the guidance provided by mentors that they took the detours that made them both icons in their field.

One thing remains clear after the completion of the first virtual Diversity Week—the collective work of these organizations continues to have a positive impact and is more critical than ever.