Insight’s Come A Long Way, Baby Last week I got my annual Cable World issue honoring the most powerful women in cable. Now, regardless of the personal blood, sweat and tears I have poured into this industry, and how near and dear it is to my heart, honesty compels me to report this one fact: our history of providing opportunities to women at the highest levels—especially on the operating side—has been spotty at best. Oh, I know some women have become paragons of leadership at certain MSOs, but they remain exceptions to the rule. This industry still operates with visible traces—some might say scars—of its days as the business equivalent of a stag party. Fortunately, those scars are fading, and in some instances rather quickly. Fortunately, there are companies like Insight. And fortunately, there are women like Melody Brucker, Wendy Henry, Lanae Juffer, Kathy Douglass and Jeanne Coleman. Those five ladies, who I had the good fortune to have breakfast with some time back, are all district vice presidents for Insight, which means they operate five of the company’s 14 regional cable operations. Now the fact that more than a third of an MSO’s 14 top managers at the district level are women may be moderately interesting, even noteworthy. But couple that with the fact that five of Insight’s six most successful districts are run by women, and it’s time to stop the presses. As a matter of background, I should tell you that three years ago, Insight, under new-at-the-time COO Dinni Jain, underwent a major shift in corporate culture. Fueled by Jain’s belief that good is the enemy of great, Insight rolled out a new series of internal metrics, based not so much on economics but day-to-day operations. These new measuring sticks drilled down to the very core of Insight’s operating practices and focused squarely on, not so much system revenue and expenses, as much as the source of those things. Now, if any strategic shift would appear right up the alley of a member of cable’s old boy network, it would be a reemphasis on field operations. So, who would have ever thought that, in Insight’s case, among the operation heads who embraced it, most were five ladies and none had ever installed a power supply or set an anchor by hand? Given their gender and the fact they had chosen to make careers in such a male-dominated industry as cable, we talked candidly for a while about the sacrifices each had to make, and how, as mothers and wives, most of them had paid a steep personal price for their success. But don’t kid yourself, these five ladies are as mentally tough and competitive as any man you’ll want to meet—and at least in terms of this industry, maybe more so. When I asked them about competition—and I used the phrase “dog-eat-dog”—Wendy quickly asked, “You mean internal or external competition?” After the laughter around the table subsided, she explained that she and, in particular, Mel have a heated competition between themselves to produce the best numbers. “If you can compete like we do internally, externally it becomes automatic,” she said. For the ladies of Insight, it’s all about results; real, see-them, feel-them, touch-them results. Results they can track every day, not just when someone puts a financial statement in front of them. Results that will give Insight an edge over its competition and make it, in the long run, a stronger, better company. As Lanae told me, “At 6 o’clock this morning I turned on my Blackberry and had in front of me my installs for the day, my disconnects for the day, and how many installs I’d need to have done to show a positive net gain. Now, every day I know exactly what I have to do.”

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