New York -- The cable and telecommunications industry converged on the New York Hilton today for the annual Wonder Women luncheon, honoring outstanding women leaders.
Co-sponsored by Multichannel News and the New York chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications, this year's event -- saluting the 11th class of Wonder Women since the award's inception in 1999 -- drew 820 attendees, according to Larry Dunn, publisher of Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable. Hosting the ceremony were Campbell Brown, anchor of CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias. No Bull; Giuliana Rancic, co-anchor and managing editor of E! Entertainment Television's E! News; and Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of Univision Network's Noticiero Univision and host of the network's news magazine Aqui y Ahora.
Chosen by the editors of Multichannel News, this year's 11 honorees were:
• Peggy Ballard, senior director, worldwide service provider marketing, Cisco Systems
• Alina Falcon, executive vice president and operating manager, Univision
• Jennifer Gaiski, senior vice president, content acquisition, Comcast
• Joan Gillman, executive vice president and president of media sales, Time Warner Cable
• Kate Juergens, executive vice president of original programming and development, ABC Family
• Vicki Lins, chief marketing officer, Canoe Ventures
• Gwen Marcus, executive vice president, general counsel, Showtime Networks
• Patricia McCaskill, senior vice president of programming, Suddenlink Communications
• Eileen O'Neill, president and general manager, TLC
• Kathy Payne, executive vice president of programming, Cox Communications
• Diane Robina, president, Fearnet
Mentoring was a recurring theme in several of the honorees' remarks, beginning with Cisco's Ballard singling out Wonder Women as "absolutely my favorite event of this industry" and "an incredible opportunity to mentor." Comcast's Gaiski echoed the sentiment: "I make every day, moment, interaction a mentoring situation," she said, adding that the one thing you owe is "to pay it forward."
Co-host Salinas introduced Univision's Falcon as a mentor, while Falcon reciprocated by saying that Salinas had been a "guiding light, inspiration and good friend" over the 20 years that they have worked together. Suddenlink's McCaskill summed up one of her own bits of advice to others as simply "network, network, network."
Family was also front and center in the acceptance speeches. Cox's Payne movingly spoke of her father being diagnosed with a brain tumor and her family's moves to get him the right care while maintaining a positive outlook.
REMEMBERING MARY WHITE
This year's event also marked the recent passing of one of the Wonder Women's ranks. Mary L. White, the former president of Charter Communications' Central Division and a 2008 Wonder Woman honoree, died March 6 at the age of 46 after battling breast cancer.
Speaking at last year's Wonder Women ceremony, White recalled her college basketball days, the value of teamwork and the importance of taking chances. "I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who supported me and always pushed me to do better," White said. "And I had a coach who taught me that you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take."
Speaking at today's event, WICT president and CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley reminisced about White, saying that "she never gave up...she brought a joy of life and element of fun to everything she did." Referring to White's life lessons on the basketball court, Mosley said that Wonder Women "never shy away from a challenge. They take the shot."
The honorees' speeches also provided many flashes of humor along the way. From Showtime's Marcus quoting her mother in "a less supportive moment" as saying that a "glamorous" portrait "looks nothing like you," to O'Neill remarking that "Rush Limbaugh still hopes I fail." Lins got one of the biggest laughs when she said that "being a woman in business has many challenges - most of them men."
Speakers also alluded to today's harsh economic realities. In the spirit of the event, Lins said that times like these bring out "the superhero in everyone," while TLC's O'Neill said she looked forward to next year's class of Wonder Women because they will have truly survived "an amazing year."
12 WOMEN TO WATCH
In addition to this year's Wonder Women class, 12 Women To Watch were recognized. They included:
• Maryam Banikarim, senior vice president, integrated sales marketing, NBC Universal
• Jennifer Caserta, executive vice president and general manager, IFC
• Lori Conkling, executive vice president, distribution, Lifetime Networks
• Kristine Faulkner, vice president, product development and management, Cox Business
• Melani Griffith, senior vice president, programming and video services, Insight Communications
• Jacqueline Hernández, COO, Telemundo Communications Group
• Loretha Jones, co-president, programming, BET
• Toni Judkins, senior vice president, original programming, TV One
• Gina Lombardi, senior vice president, Qualcomm
• Gail MacKinnon, EVP and chief government relations officer, Time Warner Cable
• Sue Naegle, president, HBO Entertainment
• Tonia O'Connor, EVP, distribution sales and marketing, Univision Communications
The 2009 Wonder Women and Women to Watch were profiled in a Jan. 26 special report in Multichannel News.