Nomi Bergman doesn’t need to see this fall’s first-ever WICT statistics on the number of women employed in cable’s tech sector. She already knows what they’ll say. That’s because Bergman, EVP, strategy and development for Advance/Newhouse, uses a bathroom test that gets to the point better than any survey can. "Any tech conference I go to, there’s never anyone in the women’s restrooms, or any lines in the women’s restrooms," she says. "It’s the funniest thing, and the only time you ever see that." As a whole, cable received a below-average grade from last year’s WICT-sponsored PAR Initiative survey, which documented how many women worked in the industry and the level of jobs they held. According to the survey, women in cable account for 29% of management positions, compared to 42% at U.S. companies; and women take up 38.7% of cable jobs, down from the national average of 47%. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a dearth of female cable engineers as well. Almost all anecdotal evidence suggests that an even worse environment exists for women in the cable tech field. Despite not yet having hard stats, WICT president and CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley sees it whenever she "goes to the SCTE Expo and sees so few women." "It is an area of focus for us," she says. "We know that there is a dire need." Women in technology-related positions, or women who work for technology companies, make up only 14% of WICT’s membership. Similarly, women account for only 6% of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ membership of more than 6,000. Still, SCTE president and CEO John Clark says he’s seen a steady increase since he took the top post six years ago. He points to the fact that three of his 17 board members are women (18%) as evidence that women are making gains in the tech field. "Engineers recognize and respect credentials," Clark says. "Working with female engineers in mainstream positions doesn’t seem surprising or unusual at all." In an attempt to encourage more women to enter the tech sector, WICT and SCTE joined forces with CableWORLD’s sister publication Communications Technology to present an annual award honoring a highly accomplished woman working in technology. Bergman will receive the award this year. Bergman, who sets the tech agenda for MSO Bright House Networks, Oxygen’s Andrea Cummis and Comcast’s Beckie Scilingo and Susan Adams (all of whom are profiled below) are among the few holding high-level tech jobs in cable. Some in the industry trace the lack of female techies to the half-century-old cable industry’s roots. Men built and ran cable systems, programming suppliers and equipment vendors. They tended to hire women for marketing, customer service or public relations jobs. Female employees who broke into installation, engineering or other tech areas, would have to adopt a one-of-the-guys attitude, or take such treatment from colleagues. This is not a situation that’s unique to cable. According to a 2000 study released by the National Science Foundation, women made up just 23% of the science and engineering labor force and earned an average of 23% less than men (though the study attributed the salary gap to differences in age, occupation and education). Over the last 50 years, more doors have opened for women looking to get into the tech side of cable. Advanced services such as video on demand, telephony and high-speed Internet access are attracting women with computer or other specialized tech skills. Maybe, as Oxygen’s Cummis suggests in one of the following profiles, when it comes to women in cable technology, the goal shouldn’t be to abolish an environment of discouragement. As she weighs the matter, it’s more about establishing a long-overdue environment of encouragement. Keep that in mind as you read about these women, who are helping to create that environment by becoming leaders in cable technology and engineering. Nomi Bergman
EVP, strategy and development
Advance/Newhouse Communications
Family affairs run deep in the cable industry: Think of the Roberts, Kaitz, Dolan and Goddard families. Most involve father/son relationships. Advance/Newhouse Communications, the MSO running under the name Bright House Networks, is a case of father/son/daughter. Father—and former NCTA chairman—Robert Miron is CEO, son Steve is president and daughter Nomi Bergman plots the technology course. The family ties "made the road easier in that I grew up in the industry, and that exposure helped give me opportunities to work in the field," Bergman says. Still, she blazed her own trail, with Andersen Consulting and Time Warner Cable among her stops along the way. Bergman dismisses some of the difficulties of being female and in charge of cable tech development, saying that universal attributes, such as work ethic and integrity, are vital for success. "You have to tackle things with dedication, passion and a sense of perspective. Some of that comes with cultivating resources and having mentors around to get answers," she says. "The most important goal in my job is being entrepreneurial and nimble," Bergman adds. "You have to keep answering questions about where your business is going. What’s our platform going to be capable of offering in the years ahead? What affects what our customers are interested in? What’s our competition going to be capable of offering? You also have to consider policy and regulation and how that affects the landscape." The launch of cable modem services has opened up some doors for women looking at cable tech jobs, she says, by making it easier to balance home and work life. "That leads many women not to take the kind of jobs with long, dedicated hours. In key operations work, you just can’t leave work in the office. "Ironically, a woman with a full life at home and work brings more perspective to the job. You’re more creative and make good long-term decisions. That’s a plus for business." —S.A. Beckie Scilingo
Director of new products
If there is truly such a thing as "old school," then Comcast’s Beckie Scilingo embodies the concept of "new school." Whereas many of her predecessors grew up with the industry and were forced to learn by trial and error, Scilingo knew during her days as an undergraduate at Ohio University that cable engineering was what she wanted to get into, and she studied accordingly. And unlike many in her field who would rather sit at a computer and tweak a network’s design, she’d much rather be interfacing with her marketing department, catching up on the latest marketplace trends and research findings. But perhaps what makes Scilingo a symbol of cable’s new age is that unlike so many who came before her in the tech sector, she is a woman. Now she finds herself a key member of a team whose charge is to roll out VOD aggressively in Comcast systems across the country. Scilingo loves the challenge, in large measure because what she is doing is having a direct impact on consumers. She tries never to lose sight of that. "What I bring to the table is an ability to see network and product development from multiple points of views," she says. "I’d like to think I can build bridges between the technical side and the marketing department, and do it from the customer’s perspective." Does she feel added pressure because of Comcast’s size and role as an industry leader? "There may be more scrutiny with 22 million customers, but that doesn’t change how we approach our jobs. And I’d like to think we’ve done a great job balancing the overall interests of the industry with the interests of our most important audience, which is the consumer." —M.C.A. Susan Adams
VP, engineering and technology
Comcast New England
Ten years ago no one was more skeptical of cable’s ability to deliver IP technology than Susan Adams, and during her job interview she told her prospective boss, Kevin Casey, as much. But fortunately, in Casey’s words, "Susan drank the Kool-Aid." As a result, the industry not only welcomed a strong-willed individual and great team player, it engaged what her boss calls "one of the great technical minds in cable." As the person in charge of Comcast’s technical operations in New England, Adams not only oversees field operations, engineering, design and converter repair, she’s the point person for the system’s ambitious rollout of VOD and IP telephony. One of Adams’ first jobs in cable was helping Continental Cablevision launch high-speed services in her native New England. Since then she’s become proficient in everything from data over cable engineering to cable modem termination systems to regional IP networking. She’s come far since her early twenties, when, while working as a bartender and restaurant manager, she decided to go back to school full time and study computer networking. "Going to school and working full time was not easy, but it was my only choice," Adams says. Her education not only provided Adams with the ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone in cable’s male-dominated technical side, it gave her a sense that there was nothing she couldn’t do if she set her mind to it. And while she remains proud of what she accomplished, Adams is candid about how far cable needs to go toward providing women with opportunities in technology. "Sadly, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. I think we need to find a way to mentor more young women about careers in technology. I have very few peers in this industry." But while she continues to work with WICT to create such opportunities, Adams does her best advocacy work by simply showing up each morning. As Casey, now SVP, Comcast New England, says, "Susan is a true role model. People look at her and say, `It can be done.’" —M.C.A. Andrea Cummis
SVP, engineering and operations
Oxygen Media
Cable companies need to do a better job of presenting technology as a career choice to women, Andrea Cummis says. "They’re not encouraged," she says. "Women in engineering schools are going into computer software or chemical engineering. Television work is very hands-on. You’re going to get dirty. You need to know a lot of skills. Where I am, 70% of the staff are women. I’d love to find more women engineers, but my impression is it’s just as hard to find them now as it’s been the last 10 years." What makes the search tougher is the absence of diversity initiatives for TV technicians. Cummis, employed with Oxygen since its inception in 2000, believes launching such programs would be an important step that would give "higher visibility to the tech field." Cummis’ day-to-day challenges at Oxygen are far different from what they were in 2000. Back then, two in-house production teams were under her management, generating such shows as Pure Oxygen and Trackers. Now that there is no in-house production, Cummis concentrates on long-range strategy, including high-definition TV, video on demand and interactive TV. Cummis’ advice to women who want to get into cable technology: Go for it, and get for as much education as possible. "Don’t let somebody talk you out of it," she says. "If you go to engineering school, go to the best one you can go to, get the degree and then learn on the job." Cummis has followed her own advice, and has profited by it—last year she became the Society of Broadcast Engineers’ first female board member in more than two decades. —S.A.

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