A dozen top female executives in cable operations, programming and technology were honored at the annual Wonder Women luncheon Wednesday (March 24), an event in New York City attended by 830 people.
The event, co-hosted by Multichannel News and the New York chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications, featured the usual array of puns about gold tiaras and invisible jets, along with life lessons, humor and warm thanks from the women who were honored. The 12 Wonder Women -- and another 14 "Women to Watch" -- were selected by the editors of Multichannel News and profiled in the Jan. 25 edition of the magazine.
Jennifer Caserta, executive VP and general manager at IFC, confessed to being a "bona fide television junkie" all her life, someone who began reading Multichannel News in college to learn about the industry she now thrives in. Caserta, who earlier was a marketer at Court TV and IFC and then ran the music channel Fuse, credited the environment at Rainbow Media Holdings that gives women the opportunity to lead.
Jennifer Dangar, senior VP of domestic distribution for Discovery Communications, held up one of the candy bars that her colleagues had made in her honor, with her name and "2010 Wonder Woman" stenciled on the wrapper, next to a photo of her superimposed on the cartoon superhero's image. Among the people she thanked was Discovery distribution chief Bill Goodwyn, who, she said, hired her twice.
Kristine Faulkner, VP of product development & management at Cox Communications' Cox Business unit, said the career trajectory that propelled her from newspaper photography to telecommunications was one that taught her to learn new things continually and not be afraid to drive change.
Melani Griffith, SVP of programming and video services at Insight Communications, announced that she was having twins -- "there are three of us up here right now," she said, and two of them were kicking hard -- and said she benefited from good teachers, excellent colleagues and the kind of dedication that extended to having three meals at her desk and having her hair highlighted at the office.
Cathy Hetzel, president of advanced media and information at Rentrak, said she'd attended many Wonder Women luncheons over the years and advised people in the back of the room to look up from their BlackBerrys and remember the inspiring points from the day's speeches, lest they find themselves on the dais someday.
Pearlena Igbokwe, SVP of original programming at Showtime, recounted the story of how she immigrate to the United States from Nigeria as a girl and how television helped her perfect her English and that it continued to impart life lessons. I Love Lucy, she joked, taught her how hard you have to work to be in show business, for example. She said she felt a responsibility to be a mentor after the opportunity she was given at Showtime to transition from marketing to special projects and finally to develop original shows.
Diana Kerekes, VP of video content at Comcast, talked about growing up with her Romanian father and French Tunisian mother and how they encouraged her to have any career she wanted, as long as she became a doctor, engineer or lawyer. She became a lawyer, but at Comcast, she said, she has had four completely different careers in her six and a half years: launching networks, acquiring content for broadband and running the Comcast On Demand business.
Gail MacKinnon, executive VP and chief government relations officer at Time Warner Cable, said she was pleased to join the sisterhood of executives at the cable company who preceded her as Wonder Women. She said she learned an important lesson from one session using famed "10-Minute Trainer" Tony Horton's methods: Do your best and forget the rest. She said she wants her young daughters to follow their passions and dreams, explore their individuality and forget about trying to please everyone.
Kathleen Mayo, executive VP of consumer telecommunications services at Cablevision Systems, said she'd received several Wonder Woman-related objects in the weeks since she was named one, and said she treasured those tributes from colleagues she respects greatly. She thanked CEO James Dolan for entrusting her with overseeing the rebuild of Cablevision's operations even though she had no prior engineering experience.
Sue Naegle, president of HBO Entertainment, admired the "jazzy" statuette she was handed and said her career quote should be a twist on Katharine Hepburn, who famously said she had never realized until lately that women were supposed to be an inferior sex. Naegle, whose career was first nurtured at United Talent Agency and then at HBO, said her quote should be: "I never realized until lately how lucky and spoiled I am."
Tonia O'Connor, EVP of distribution, sales and marketing at Univision Communications, said she found her first job in cable through an ad in the newspaper. She had no idea what affiliate sales was, she said, but she knew she wanted to work really hard out of respect for her parents. She said she now encourages her children from the sidelines at their ski races, urging them to stay "up, up, up, up."
Rita Tuzon, EVP and general counsel at Fox Networks Group, said when she graduated from law school in the mid-1980s, Sandra Day O'Connor had helped shatter the judicial glass ceiling with her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Still her graduating class was only one-third women. "I feel very fortunate to have come up in a time when I could be in that vanguard of women I hope have opened doors by way of example" - making partner in a law firm or running a department or division in a media company. "That used to be a rarity and today I see women not just succeeding but excelling in these positions."
Next year's Wonder Women luncheon will be held at the New York Hilton on March 30