Q&A: WICT's Mosley Is Moving On

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Benita Fitgerald Mosley is leaving Women in Cable Telecommunications June 30 to help the U.S. get ready for the 2012 Olympics in the newly created post of chief of sport performance for USA Track & Field.

Mosley, an Olympic gold medalist herself in the 100-meter hurdles during the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, said she's ready to take on new challenges but will miss the organization and the staff whose assembly she calls her greatest accomplishment.

She talked with Multichannel News about her legacy atop the women's cable organization, which she will exit June 30, and her need to make a move.

MCN: Why are you leaving WICT. Have you accomplished what you set out do do?

Benita Fitzgerald Mosley: When I deliberated over the decision, I did think to myself that after eight years at WICT and all the great work the staff and the board have done to elevate the organization and improve existing programs and introduce new ones like the PAR initiative, and double and triple membership, we will continue to do great things, but it will feel to me like more of the same. And this was certainly a new challenge and a new opportunity.

I knew that in 2012, when I am watching the Olympics on TV, if I hadn't been a part of it I would have been pretty upset about it.

I am so sad and emotional about leaving WICT. There are so many people on my staff, on my board, our members and chapter leaders, that I care about deeply and will miss. But I knew I would probably regret not taking this opportunity.

MCN: What was your biggest accomplishment at WICT?

BFM: Programmatically, I would say the PAR ( initiative). I remember board member Nancy Murphy, who is at the FCC now, said to me when I first started that people look around the industry and think, 'WICT is kind of done. We've got plenty of women in the industry now and don't really know why we still need a women's organization. She said 'I think we have a compelling statement of need because we really know there are still too few women, particularly in the senior ranks, particularly within the MSOs and we need a measure and a yardstick to show people in this area.' And so, that conversation, and strategic planning and a whole lot of work was the beginning of the PAR initiative.

That has been a great opportunity for WICT to talk about issues that are most important to women, help disseminate best practices to companies to help them implement policies and programs that help advance women.

But it is also important to show the industry that we still have work to do so they can't rest on their laurels.

As far as the overall organization, I think I am proudest of my staff. We have been able to bring in folks from the industry, some from the nonprofit world. They really are a great team of people. They love what they do. They love this organization.

MCN: What advice would you give to your successor?

BFM: One of the things that helped me, particularly in the past five years of my tenure, was a concept called knowledge-based decision-making. I learned it at a conference several years ago. It was a little bit of a foreign concept to me. You talk about the concept of going with your gut on certain decisions, and I think there is a certain amount of that that is necessary as a leader. But I think that having the requisite data in order to make sound decisions is also important. So, we have had a mixture of that over the past four or five years that has helped guide WICT to great success in particular areas and creating programs, transforming the WICT Forum into the WICT Leadership Conference for instance or introducing new services or creating a new Web site.

Whatever it is that we are doing, we listen to our chapter leaders, members, sponsors and board members. We are in the process of polling because we are going to be doing a strategic planning session on my last day (June 30) in New York City. And each of those people at the meeting will have a huge three-ring binder of information to look at to develop the best strategy. If she or he looks at that data and develops more of their own--and it is not always surveys. It's all kinds of data, conversations with people, anecdotal evidence--those are the kinds of things that helped inform our decisions over the past several years. And I think that has been a huge help.

MCN:What is the financial health of the organization as you leave it?

The past couple of years we have had a really strong financial position. This year, as with all organizations, we have suffered somewhat of a downturn. But our membership is up year-to-date over last year. Between the event consolidation and the economy we saw a drop in attendance in our WICT leadership conference, but that was probably to be expected.

Our other programs, like the Rising Leaders program and the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, all are fully subscribed. So, we are holding our own. We feel really proud at how we are withstanding the current economic downturn.

MCN: Is it time to let the FiOS folks back into the organization?

BFM: I think one of our strategies over the past year or two is to really grow with cable and its new partners. So, as they bring on partners like Sprint, we have now added someone from Sprint on our board. But, it is going to change. At some point there is going to be this dividing line of before the telcos and after the telcos. I don't know if that is five years from now or 15 years from now. But at some point they are all going to look like cable operators and telephone companies and high-speed data providers and what their original origins were is going to make a whole lot less of a difference.

Particularly the people who are now probably middle managers who will be running those companies. Time will tell. But WICT will try and keep pace with what the industry is doing at this point.

MCN: What major hurdles do women still face in the cable workplace.

BFM: We have had the best success, as far as the PAR initiative, with companies adopting policies around pay and gender. I think it is an 'aha!' moment for companies to say that by not having the policies in place, by not having the proper training of our management in place and the tools in place, we are really making ourselves vulnerable to things like the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act and potentially the paycheck fairness act that Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is co-sponsoring.

So, I think we need to insure that companies are looking at this as a major issue, not only of fairness, but from a marketing and talent development and recruitment/retention standpoint. If you want the best talent, you need to pay them. And if your competitors are falling into that only paying 78 cents on a dollar to women thing and you offer equal pay for equal work, you are going to be a much more attractive employment to top talent. So, it can be a competitive advantage.

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