It’s true that there’s a paucity of women in the senior ranks of cable operators, yet things could be worse. In fact, they are. Attend meetings of the New York chapter of the American Society of Industrial Security. Of the chapter’s 500 members, there are just three females. While all three deserve credit, one of them, Fiona Kennedy, gets a bit more. That’s because she chooses to enter an environment that couldn’t be more different from her day job. Kennedy is director of security at Oxygen Media, a company that’s the inverse of the cable industry when it comes to women. In cable, 63% of employees are men, while 70% of Oxygen’s 250 workers are women. Men make up 73% of the senior executive ranks in cable; at Oxygen, women hold 83% of executive positions. As Oxygen has carved a niche for itself because it offers something different to the viewing public, Kennedy’s gender helps when she enters testosterone-laden bastions. Moonlighting as a security consultant for clubs and restaurants, few suspect the pretty Irish woman with a soft-spoken brogue is manning an investigation, so they reveal things. She rarely has a problem pinpointing nefarious busboys and bartenders dipping into the till. "We built this company to rewrite the rules about programming for women," Oxygen COO Lisa Hall says. "But we also wanted to rewrite how you do business. Part of that is putting women in untraditional female roles." Enter Kennedy, who’s been with Oxygen two and half years. She’s not the only one, however. Valerie Grubb, VP, operations, initially joined Oxygen as a consultant to fine-tune its purchasing operation; six years later, she oversees purchasing, facilities, security and telecom. Nicole Lind, VP, information technology, started at Oxygen mounting servers on racks. She now reports directly to CTO Steve Morgan. Tough Times for Women Even at Oxygen Being a woman at Oxygen isn’t necessarily easy. After all, women in nontraditional jobs still have to deal with men outside the company during the workday. There have been challenges within Oxygen, too. At one point, Lind had a male boss who literally ignored her and two female colleagues. (That boss didn’t last long.) In Oxygen’s early days, when the IT department was 90% male, the guys used to call Lind and her female cohorts "The Powerpuff Girls." She sloughed it off, instead concentrating on work, and in her first year produced the company’s first set of network maps. Information technology may be Oxygen’s last male bastion, with a male-to-female ratio of about 4-to-1. That’s slightly better than six years ago, when it was 90% male. As a manager Lind deals with a different set of problems. "Of all the technologists in my department I am probably their first female boss," Lind says. "They’re not expecting to take direction of any kind from women. In some cases it’s been tough." The Internet bust killed Oxygen’s ambitions to be a Web company, but it also weeded out those IT employees who couldn’t handle Oxygen’s culture. A Diller-Trained Operations Guru Grubb, the VP of operations and Kennedy’s boss, has plenty of experience in traditionally male sectors. She’s an engineer by training and worked for years in systems testing for an aircraft engine manufacturer. Despite little formal experience in operations, she got a post with Barry Diller and learned on the job. Engineering taught her a methodical approach to problem solving, which she still uses. "I’m very fortunate to have great parents who taught me you could do or be anything, so it never entered my mind that I couldn’t," she says. That’s Oxygen’s philosophy, too.

The Daily



Seth Arenstein reviews the week’s biggest premieres, including HBO Max’s “What Happened, Brittany Murphy?”

Read the Full Issue
The Skinny is delivered on Tuesday and focuses on the cable profession. You'll stay in the know on the headlines, topics and special issues you value most. Sign Up


Dec 7
Most Powerful Women Celebration Register to Join Us in NYC to Celebrate!
Full Calendar


Seeking an INDUSTRY JOB?

Hiring? In conjunction with our sister brand, Cynopsis, we are offering hiring managers a deep pool of media-savvy, skilled candidates at a range of experience levels and sectors, The result will be an even more robust industry job board, to help both employers and job seekers.

Contact for more information.