Wonder Women 2004


It's that time of year again: Multichannel News is celebrating outstanding efforts by women in and around the cable community with the sixth annual Wonder Women report.

In what has now become an annual ritual, MCN editors huddle during a number of meetings in the fall to select a special group of women whose professional achievements are leaving an indelible imprimatur on the industry. These women also will be lauded at the Wonder Women luncheon on March 30 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York.

This year's Wonder Women class underscores the impact that women are having across industry disciplines.

MTV Networks research guru Betsy Frank continues to dissect audience analysis and trends, while Jessica Reif Cohen long has been a force shaping financial markets as an analyst at Merrill Lynch.

Andrea Greenberg has thrived in another traditional male bastion, sports, where she leads a number of regional networks for Rainbow Media. Kristin Dolan, her colleague at Bethpage, N.Y.-headquartered Cablevision Systems Corp., is spearheading the MSO's digital platform, Interactive Optimum.

Three other MSO Wonder Women are hailed herein: Italia Commisso Weinand, who heads programming and human resources for Mediacom Communications; Lynn Costantini, who is assuming a higher profile in the programming department at Time Warner Cable; and Ellen East, who directs communications strategies for Cox.

Lee Ann Daly's job, meanwhile, centers on burnishing the image of the total sports network, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For her part, Dena Kaplan will be directing much of her efforts this year to steeling Game Show Network's new moniker in the minds of consumers and affiliates alike.

Speaking of affiliate relations, Bridget Baker has been a major force behind NBC Cable's carriage deals over the years.

After building The Weather Channel Interactive Cos., Debora Wilson is also now lending her acumen to running the flagship network on a daily basis.

At women's stalwart Lifetime Television, we're applauding Lynn Picard for her work enhancing ad revenues over the years and for becoming the channel's first general manager. Jenny Alonzo not only keeps tabs on managing Lifetime's promotional inventory, but leading a little organization known as National Association for Multiethnicity in Communications.

The duties handled by our 15 Women To Watch honorees also extend across the cable landscape, influencing the MSO worlds of finance, strategic direction, operational management and ad sales. On the network side, we're watching women in leadership positions at extant and startup channels and others charged with building brands and bringing home ad revenues. Still others are focused on driving advanced services for operators from their posts in the sports world and the vendor technology space, while another could ascend to the top of the regulatory realm.

In front of the camera, our 12 On-Air Wonders range from Disney Channel teen star Raven to Oxygen's septuagenarian sex expert Sue Johanson. We also trumpet the work of women providing their expertise to the realms of athletics, news, design and food. Of course, we haven't neglected a cadre of top actresses in the comedic and drama genres.

Still, our enthusiasm must be tempered by the reality that many opportunities for women — much less concerns over hitting the glass ceiling — never arise because of their gender, maternal obligations or male-dominated corporate cultures.

Indeed, a PAR Initiative study released by Women in Cable & Telecommunications last fall found that cable still lags behind national averages. Although the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that females account for 42% of the national workforce, their ranks constitute just 38.7% of the cable community. As for management, industry at large has 42% distaff executives, but cable's average is only 29%.

These deficiencies are significant and must be addressed. WICT recognized Cox Communications Inc. and The Weather Channel as the best cable workplaces for women with Forerunners Accolades. Joining Cox were Cable One Inc., Comcast Corp., Insight Communications Co. and Time Warner Cable, while WICT cited ABC Cable Networks Group, Discovery Communications Inc., Lifetime Television and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. on the network side.

Elsewhere, Adelphia Communications Corp., in addition to hiring Woman to Watch Vanessa Wittman as CFO, has retained many other female executives as it attempts to reorganize. At Charter Communications Corp., another Women to Watch Lee Clayton, who heads the midwest division, is one of 24 females who have been recruited or promoted to the vice president level or higher by CEO Carl Vogel.

These are prudent steps. Over time, one can only hope that more cable companies will augment their rosters by hiring more qualified women.