Meyer's belief in diversity is changing Universal

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When MSNBC personality Don Imus made racially charged remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team in April 2007, Ron Meyer was at the heart of NBC Universal’s talks on how to handle the matter. That’s because he had been tapped to head the first NBC Universal Diversity Council.

Paula Madison, NBC Universal’s executive vp diversity, recalls Meyer insisted on a full investigation and due process for Imus, but said if the charges were true, the company would have to separate itself from him. “He wasn’t afraid to put his face in the wind,” she says.

In an era when corporations are especially sensitive to questions of diversity, few have taken the matter as seriously as Meyer.

He has been a key figure behind NBC Universal’s moves to encourage it, naming several minority executives to the senior vp level, backing writer- and director-training schemes, and developing outreach programs.

In 2005, at Madison’s request, Meyer participated in a “Black Women on Wall Street” panel in New York. One attendee, a professor at the University of Virginia, asked him, “What do I tell my M.B.A. students who are interested in coming into this business and don’t have the kind of connections that can get them to the entry level?”

Meyer encouraged the professor to call him. When she failed to follow up, he made a call to her himself. One of her students met him soon after. “Now she’s working here in consumer products,” he says.

But Meyer admits his company, like most others, can do more. “If I had to give a report card on diversity to NBC and Universal right now, I would say about a B-minus,” he muses. “This is a comparatively young business, the motion picture industry, and it was founded by white men and was very much a white man’s business. It has never attracted people of color, not as it should.”
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