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"Women in Cable & Telecommunications"

In 1979, the telecommunications industry looked dramatically different than it does today. Back then, only 20 percent of American households were wired for cable television and there was just one dominant phone company. The Internet was still just a military experiment.

Lucille Larkin, one of the founding members of Women in Cable, remembers the frustration of being one of a few women in the cable industry's professional ranks. At the time, she served as vice president of publicity for the National Cable Television Association. To her, the lack of women at industry conventions was unacceptable. Of the 1,500 attendees at a major industry event, she recalls, just four were women.

Yet in a male-dominated environment, there were some advantages. In particular, it was easy for women to befriend one another. In the mid-1970s, Larkin met Gail Sermersheim, who shared her concerns about the shortage of professional women in the industry. Men, they realized, had informal networking groups, and women needed their own networks, too. Larkin and Sermersheim decided that building an organization devoted to the advancement of women might fill this void. So together, in 1979, they founded Women in Cable, which, in 1995, became Women in Cable & Telecommunications (WICT).

As cable has been integrated into the larger and more dynamic telecommunications industry, WICT has grown and adapted. However, the organization's mission is the same: to educate and empower women to achieve their professional goals by providing opportunities for leadership, networking, and advocacy. The organization hopes to realize its vision of an environment at work, at home, and in our society where women are valued for their contributions, absent inequities in opportunities and recognition.

In just 20 years, WICT's membership has grown to include more than 4,200 professionals, representing all facets of the telecommunications industry. Twenty-two WICT chapters and satellites offer local meetings and seminars, training, and the exchange of ideas for telecommunications professionals nationwide.

The organization's major events are:

Betsy Magness Leadership Institute

Established in 1994, the institute is designed to provide women at senior- and middle-management levels with an intensive yearlong leadership training and development program. More than 125 fellows have graduated from the program, including some of the most powerful women in the telecommunications industry.

Women in Cable & Telecommunications Foundation

Created in 1985, the foundation is dedicated to advancing the status of women in the telecommunications industry. Its strategic focus for the next several years, dubbed "Women in Executive Levels: Strategies for Success," revolves around promoting an environment where women operate on a level playing field without artificial barriers. The foundation also publishes studies on salary parity between men and women in the telecommunications industry.

Work/Life Productivity Initiative

In 1999, the Foundation published "Benefits of Balance," which compares work/life programs in the telecommunications industry to others nationally. Launched originally in 1993 as the child-care initiative, this project is now designed to determine how work/life issues affect the productivity of the industry and to offer solutions and tools for effectively addressing those issues.

Best Practices Initiative

This initiative, to be unveiled in 2000, will provide a richly informative portrait of the current status of women in the telecommunications industry. In identifying the "best practices," the initiative will go beyond company statistics to gather highly detailed information on pay equity, diversity programming, leadership development, management practices, and senior management's support for these programs.

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