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WICT Leader Sets the Curve

Nov 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Benita Mosley, president and CEO of Women in Cable & Telecommunications, was interviewed by telephone by TVWeek Editor Alex Ben Block.

TelevisionWeek: Congratulations on being named cable TV executive of the year.

Benita Mosley: Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled and honored.

TVWeek: I wanted to start right off by talking about some of your accomplishments at WICT. Would you talk about some of your noteworthy accomplishments?

Ms. Mosley: I started in March 2001 and within the first nine months we had developed and started to implement a brand-new strategic plan that had pretty specific goals around understanding who our customers are, developing and refining our programs, rebranding the organization, financially getting ourselves on a solid footing, organizationally putting ourselves in a position to lead this organization to greater heights and also … to advocate for more women in leadership roles and more women overall in the cable industry.

TVWeek: If you were giving the cable industry a report card on diversity in terms of women in particular and diversity in general, on a scale of A to F, what would you grade it? Then and now?

Ms. Mosley: We decided that grading wasn’t really conducive to partnering with the industry as we really envisioned ourselves doing. So the PAR Initiative is a score card, not a report card …

TVWeek: Would you explain what the PAR Initiative is and how it’s been implemented?

Ms. Mosley: `P’ stands for `pay equity’; `A’ stands for `advancement opportunities’; and `R’ stands for `resources’ for work life, and the whole initiative is on our Web site [wict.org]. It was [created] to find a way to better score-keep for women. The NAACP came in a little bit before I started-I heard about this, I wasn’t in the industry at the time-and did a report card, a diversity report card, on the industry, and I don’t think we fared [very] well in that. The companies took a lot of notice. And when we thought about grading the industries per se or deciding who the best companies were, we thought, “Gosh, if we do what the NAACP did and just kind of give people grades and out people and make people feel badly that they aren’t doing all that great, then we’ll end up in the same kind of place. … Yeah, we’ll heighten the awareness but probably alienate the organization from the very people we are trying to help and serve. We are in our second year. We launched it in 2003. Our first effort was we released our first best companies for women in cable list. Then we did our best programmers, the five best programmers, the five best operators and the five best companies for P, A and R.

TVWeek: Do you do that every year or was it a one-time thing?

Ms. Mosley: It’s an annual program, and we are partnering with Working Mother magazine because they do an annual list of the best companies for working mothers, and so we knew they had the expertise and credibility in this area and we had 28 companies participate last year and 32 this year. The results for this week’s initiatives will be released the week of Nov. 1. And the best companies, the best operator and best programmer will be named at that time. But back to the PAR Initiative. What we really envisioned was doing this list so we were honoring the best companies, and we do a scorecard … that says how the industry is doing and we do individual confidential scorecards. Each company gets a scorecard from us that tells them how they’re doing. If they’re not doing well, we tell them that. If they’re doing well, we tell them that. Where there are areas for improvement, we specifically cite what those are and what they might do to improve in those areas. So instead of giving them a grade per se, we’re giving them a score they see where they are relative to the industry and where they are [compared] to those on the best company list. But we do not tell the industry the company names that don’t make the list. And it’s a safe harbor for us to some degree. Our organization is supported by 4,500 members, most of whom work for the very companies that we are grading. We still want to be partners with the companies. We didn’t want to alienate them. WICT for 25 years has been an integral part of this industry and we want to continue for the next 25 years, and the only way to do that is to be in a partnership with them and not by being a negative force. Are we going to keep telling the industry they need more women, where [its] shortcomings are and ways in which to increase the level and number of women in the industry? Of course we will.

TVWeek: You mentioned rebranding. Can you explain what that process was and what the brand is now?

Ms. Mosley: [When I came to WICT] the board was concerned that WICT didn’t have the industry presence that they would like for the organization to have, that we weren’t covered by the trade press as much as they wanted. They didn’t feel the brand image reflected what they felt about the organization. And so we put together, as part of the strategic plan, [a plan] to rebrand the organization. And we put together a small subcommittee of folks in the industry who do some of this for a living and we also hired Red Tettemer, the company that helped us develop the new brand image. So the three brand attributes that the organization came up with were vital, transforming and bold. We wanted the image to reflect that not only that we were a vital vibrant organization but that women and companies felt that we were vital to their success to some degree. We wanted to be bold. We wanted to be out there in people’s face but again in a way that we were partnering with the industry. We wanted to be transforming. We wanted to be the catalyst for change in the industry. And we also wanted the women who are leading the industry to be catalyst for change in their companies and therefore making the entire industry more successful.

TVWeek: Did you have a sense that there have been results?

Ms. Mosley: The old logo was about four-screen color. It was a round `W’ just inside or outside a square, and the mission statement was longer, and I can’t even really remember it. We changed to a red logo. A red triangle. A different mission statement that’s pretty short and sweet: `WICT develops women leaders who transform our industry.’ We have a lot bigger and stronger trade presence than when we started three years ago. I think this honor is indicative of that. And [at our] gala every year, people wear red and it is just a beautiful sea of red and black and white. Now people kind of relate that power to WICT and [the] power and the boldness that goes along with that color.

TVWeek: Did you have any background in the cable industry before you took this position?

Ms. Mosley: Absolutely none. I’ve been really blessed from a standpoint of having won the Gold Medal [for the 100-meter hurdles in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games] in the first place and all the opportunities that come from that. One was my association with the Women’s Sports Foundation. It was founded by Billie Jean King, and they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary. And the purpose of the organization, particularly in the early years, was to advocate and advance women in sports. Create more opportunities for girls and women to play, get college scholarships for women through Title 9 and that kind of thing. So I was asked to come on the board of that organization and I became president of the board. Throughout ’97 and ’98 I was president. Donna Lopiano is the executive director and she knows Susan Bishop [who] runs Bishop Partners, which is an executive recruiting firm in the cable media industries. She was hired to find the next president of WICT. [The WICT board] had a vision for who they wanted in this role, someone who brought a higher profile into the job, but they didn’t necessary have to have a cable background. They wanted someone who had a background in women’s advocacy as well. So given that, Susan called Donna and she said, `Hey, I have the perfect person for you.’ I ended up being offered the job and took it and was excited to do so.

TVWeek: Have you found that your sports background is helpful
in what you do now? If so, how?

Ms. Mosley: It’s incredibly helpful. I was talking with someone on the phone yesterday about different challenges, either personal or professional, and I said, `You know, you just really have to keep your head up, roll with the punches and keep on moving. You can’t really get bogged down by things that keep you down and hold you back.’ She said, `Well, if that comes from an Olympic gold medalist, then I have to take that advice to heart.’ And I thought about that. And that’s kind of how athletes do. You can’t sit up there and cry about last week’s game or last week’s race. It’s always about, `How do I get better or faster or stronger? How do I compete better next time?’ So I think that’s one major lesson: Don’t rest on your laurels, but also, don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes.

TVWeek: Was sports a way to break through to another level in your life? Did it allow you to maybe do some things that women of your same background didn’t get to do?

Ms. Mosley: You’re exactly right. I have two wonderful parents, both educators, who understood the importance of not only having good grades in school but also [of] introducing me to all kinds of extracurricular activities. They introduced me to ballet and softball and majorettes, piano, violin and flute and track and gymnastics. A host of things. Most of which I wasn’t good at, but by middle school having been introduced to all of those things, I found out I was a really good flute player and that I was a good student. And by the way, I could run pretty fast. So I pursued all of those things. I got my engineering degree. I was first-chair flutist in the symphonic band and all-regional and -county band and things like that. And of course, I ended up winning the Olympic gold medal. But I think it was all due to the fact that I had two parents who understood you gotta figure out what your passion is and what you are good at and the only way to do that is to experiment and fail at a bunch of things. That’s another lesson I learned. You do have to branch out and try new things to find out what you’re best at and what your passion is. And if you follow that passion you are going to do the hard work that it takes to succeed.

TVWeek: How do you assess the Olympic movement today and does it still offer the same opportunity that you had?

Ms. Mosley: I left the [United States Olympic Committee] in 2001, at a time which was probably close to the height of the challenges that the organization was facing. We were just coming off the Salt Lake City bid scandal [and] we had a bunch of changes in leadership. [The USOC was] really having a struggle to maintain its place in the American people’s minds and hearts about the Olympic movement. It only got worse after I left, when they had all the ethics scandals with the president-CEO they hired and different presidents and chairs of the board. Look at Athens [2004]. … I think the people were glued to the TV. The ratings were the best they’ve been in years. So I think the passion is still there for the Olympic movement. That’s the positive thing. I think it’s the same opportunity there. The athletes in particular want to do their best-for the country, for their families, for themselves, for their teammates. You start off as a kid, playing soccer, fencing, playing volleyball, running track and you win your neighborhood competition and you go a little bit higher and higher and each time you are trying to get better and succeed and compete as best you can. Lo and behold, you find yourself at the nationals, or the world championships or the Olympic games. It’s such a amazing opportunity for anybody, no matter what country you are from but particularly for the United States, where we’ve got to select 600 or 700 people among tens of millions of people to represent the country at the games. That in and of itself is such a huge honor. To go there and win a medal is a dream come true. The opportunity is still there. The passion is there among the athletes. How many names do you remember from the games in Athens? They aren’t doing it for fame and fortune, although some of them thankfully do get there. Some of them are still doing it year after year. They aren’t doing it because of the fame and fortune. They love to swim and they love to run track and they love competing and they are honored and blessed with the opportunity to represent their country. I think that ultimately the vast majority of the athletes feel that way.

TVWeek: You mentioned your engineering background … that’s an area where there aren’t many women in cable television.

Ms. Mosley: Yes. We just added a special section on women in technology. Where women are, where they aren’t and where the opportunities are.

TVWeek: Is that a societal thing or an industry thing? Is there another explanation?

Ms. Mosley: It’s a societal thing. It starts very young. I was talking to my son the other day. He’s 51/2 years old. He’s an amazing athlete, and I found myself talking to him about what sports he might play more than I do about his opportunity to be president of the United States or CEO of a company or build his own company. I think it’s the same thing with girls. It starts very young. I have a daughter who’s 10 months old and I’m gonna inform her that technology and math and science are things that she can pursue. It’s not out of her realm. I think women of my generation and older didn’t get that message as much as we should have.

TVWeek: It’s those negative messages. When girls turn about 14 years old they start to learn more about cosmetics and boys than about chemistry and calculus.

Ms. Mosley: Exactly right. That’s where society puts the emphasis for women: That they look cute, that they get a boyfriend. And so that’s where the interest in sports wanes, in middle school, right before that 14-year mark, and where girls tend to stop doing as well in school. It’s really a societal issue that starts from a very young age. Girls need to know that those are opportunities and need to be sustained throughout their careers.

TVWeek: In terms of preparing people for careers in engineering or technical areas of cable television, do you think that we are making progress?

Ms. Mosley: No, I don’t think we are because I don’t think there’s been a concerted effort to do so, and I think hopefully a partnership of at least getting a baseline data of where women are and where they aren’t will help us determine where the need is. I’ve been to the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers annual conference a couple of times and we do partner with them and CT magazine to do a women in technology award every year.

TVWeek: And the percentage of women in that group would be tiny?

Ms. Mosley: Teeny-tiny. They have many many members. Several thousand come to their conference. It’s growing every year, unlike other conferences. And the percentage [is] in the single digits.

TVWeek: Women do better in other areas like sales and marketing and so forth?

Ms. Mosley: As far as representation. And on the programming side, particularly in the upper range more so than the operator side, but it’s because the operators have more employees in total. There are a lot more women that work for operators than women who work for programmers.

TVWeek: But again, those women are in the office doing accounting functions or subscriber stuff or marketing. They would less likely be out in the field planting poles and doing installations, right?

Ms. Mosley: Yes, indeed.

TVWeek: Is that OK or does that need to change?

Ms. Mosley: I think that women who do have that interest should have the opportunity to do so. And so I’m not really sure where the interests lie about technology fields, or climbing poles, or installing cable in people’s homes. I really don’t know how many women will want to do that. I honestly feel the same way about women’s boxing, wrestling or other sports like women’s football. Do I want to play football? Personally, I don’t want to play football, but there are women who do. And I think they should have the opportunity to do so.

TVWeek: We hear a lot of talk a
bout women doing it all. To some extent, I could make the case that you’re doing it all. You’re an executive of a growing organization but you also have a husband, two children and family responsibilities. How do you juggle it all and what is your advice to other women?

Ms. Mosley: I want to integrate my life at work and my life at home and make them both whole. We spend more waking hours at work Monday through Friday than we do at home, so the scale is already tipped in the favor of work. I work for Women in Cable and we want to create the environment for the employees here that you’re able to have it and set the example for the industry. I had a baby last year. I have a woman on bed rest. I have another woman who’s pregnant. … They say it’s in the water here. At Oxygen Media, I think they’ve had 100 babies born since that network started, and they are growing and thriving, so I think it’s possible to do it. But you have to be able to find ways to integrate your work life and your home life. I take it one day at a time with my husband-maybe one week at a time if there’s travel concerned, but he has primary responsibility. Sometimes I have 5 p.m. conference calls and I take them in the car on my way home. Or if I have a 7 or 8 a.m. call, then I do it at home so I don’t have to forfeit spending my time with kids in the morning and helping my husband get them out the door. So we have a two-career family and we really have to make it work day by day. My family is of utmost importance to me, more so than my job. But my career is very important to me. I enjoy it.

TVWeek: You are a role model to other women, so what advice do you have for them?

Ms. Mosley: I think the main thing is to take it one day at a time and to have a support system in place that allows you to make it happen. If there’s some thing I can afford for someone else to do, I try to make that happen. Especially if it’s costing me time with my kids. Having a strong support system and really trying to find ways to integrate work and life. I think the tools available, BlackBerries, laptops, mobile phones allow us to do that. It doesn’t matter where I am taking the conference call as long as I am taking it, and as long as my staff gets what they need from me. I need to be here long enough so my staff can meet with me and get answers from me and get my attention, but I also can be elsewhere and be productive and effective at my job. I take advantage of technology as well.

TVWeek: Let’s talk about WICT. You seem to have had a pretty positive impact in your three years there. But what are your goals for the organization going forward?

Ms. Mosley: For the organization, a couple of things. One is to really have the industry understand and appreciate the current status of women in the industry. And understand the business case behind advancing them and increasing their numbers throughout their ranks, and that diversity is something they can’t deny. It’s integral to the success of the organization moving forward and representing and appreciating the background and gender differences, economic and social differences, cultural differences among their employees, which reflects their customers.

TVWeek: And your personal goals?

Ms. Mosley: There’s a lot more to do. My career goals are to stay here at WICT, make the organization more and more relevant. Our potential to grow is out there, so I’m excited about that opportunity. And the PAR initiative is really exciting, because I enjoy seeing each year the data come in and we’ve made an impact with companies that [have] pay equity. More companies today than last year when we did the survey have pay equity policies. More are doing midlevel management training than they did a year ago. More of them have on-site daycare and back-up child care and other work-life resources for their employees. So we are actually making an impact and difference with companies, so I’m excited and energized to stay here and see more successes in the future.