Celebrating Women’s History Month: Female leaders in broadband

By: Camryn Smith

Feb 24, 2023 — 7 min read

We highlight various female leaders in the broadband industry.

Women have played a vital role in the telecom industry for generations, but remain vastly underrepresented.

According to the Global Leaders Forum Survey, the gender gap is highest in technical and commercial roles. This is not an anomaly — across multiple industries including telecom, life sciences and healthcare, consumer business, financial services and energy and resources, there is less than 30% female representation in companies’ boards of directors.

A greater concern is that female representation in the top 20 telecom companies is actually lower than it is at the board level. The gender gap increases within technical roles, with representation on management teams falling by almost 10% (excluding HR and Corporate Responsibility roles).

Women’s history month celebrates women’s contributions throughout history. Here at Allconnect, we want to commemorate this by highlighting significant female figures in the telecom industry, specifically, women in broadband.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinarygender nonconforminggenderqueeragender, or genderless.

History of women in telecom

Women’s involvement in the telecommunications industry dates back to the invention of the telegraph and the telephone in the 19th century.

Like most industries during this time, the telecom sector did not give women equal positions to their male counterparts — but they were no less pivotal in the development and advancement of the industry over time.

When the first telephone exchange offices were built in the early 20th century, women were hired as “cable girls.” They were responsible for connecting the correct telephone line to the correct telephone jack to ensure a connection.

Working in this industry became increasingly common for women, especially during the First World War. Despite their importance to the industry, they were paid significantly less than men – something women would fight against for generations to come.

Progress and setbacks for women in telecom

As technology advanced rapidly, there have been clear efforts to close the gender gap across industry groups.

While women in the 21st century have progressed in gaining leadership positions, equal pay and rights in the workplace, the telecom industry is still male-dominated at the senior level.

According to the World Economic Forum, the percentage of women holding leadership positions decreases as the seniority of the position increases. From senior roles to ownership positions, female representation decreases by over 20%.

Gender gap in female leadership

The GLF reflects this trend as well, reporting that 95% of the companies that responded to the survey claim that less than 50% of their management team roles are held by women, while 60% responded that women hold less than 25% of the roles.

Female leaders in broadband

Below we’ve highlighted (in no particular order) influential female leaders in the broadband industry. Through their extensive experience, contributions and leadership, they have broken boundaries and paved the way for future female leaders.

Su Shin – President and General Manager of Hawaiian Telcom

Su Shin oversees the leadership and management of Hawaiian Telcom’s operations and corporate staff. Hawaiian Telcom, part of Altafiber, is the dominant internet provider in Hawaii.

Before becoming President of Hawaiian Telcom, Su was Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Marketing and Communications.

Su is an alumna of the University of La Verne in California. She serves on Aloha United Way’s Board of Directors, is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Hawai’i’s military Affairs Council and Hawai’i Green Growth’s Sustainability Business Forum.

Sujata Gosalia – Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer for Cox Communications

Sujata Gosalia is responsible for Cox’s corporate strategy, business development and several growth businesses. She also oversees Cox Media, Cox’s advertising sales division.

Sujata has decades of experience in the media, technology and communications industries. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Studies and holds a master’s degree in politics of the World Economy from the London School of Economics.

Jessica Fischer – Chief Financial Officer of Charter Communications

Jessica Fischer has served as the Chief Financial Officer of Charter Communications (Spectrum) since 2021. She oversees accounting, finance, tax and risk management, procurement, investor relations, internet audit, corporate budgeting, and planning. She also manages Spectrum’s equity and capital markets strategy and execution.

Before joining Spectrum’s leadership team, Jessica was a partner in the National Tax Department at EY.

Jessica is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting.

Rima Qureshi – Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer of Verizon

Rima Qureshi is an executive VP and Chief Strategy officer for Verizon. She is responsible for developing and implementing Verizon’s corporate strategy, business development, partnerships, strategic investments and acquisitions.

Before joining Verizon, Rima was President and CEO of Ericsson North America and has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the communications industry.

Rima has her undergraduate and graduate degrees from McGill University in Montreal where she studied information systems and international business.

Amy Wulfestieg – Chief communications officer for Brightspeed

Amy Wulfestieg is Brightspeed’s Chief Communications Officer. She handles internal and external communications, media relations, organizational change management and social media strategy.

Amy has held various senior-level communications roles across industry groups and is an alumna of Valparaiso University where she got her bachelor’s in Sociology, Humanities and Business. She also holds an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Organizational Behavior from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Dalila Wilson-Scott – Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation

Dalila Wilson-Scott is Comcast’s Executive VP and Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal foundation. Dalila oversees all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and the company’s philanthropic efforts. She also spearheads Comcast’s community impact initiatives.

Before joining Comcast, Dalila was Head of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase and President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Dalila holds an MBA in Finance and Management and a bachelor’s in Economics from New York University.

Kellyn Smith Kenny – Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at AT&T

Kellyn Smith Kenny oversees advertising, brand strategy, media strategy and planning, market research, customer intelligence and strategic partnerships for AT&T Communications.

Before joining AT&T Kellyn was the global Chief Marketing Officer at Hilton Worldwide and held senior positions at Uber Technologies, Capital One Financial and Microsoft. She has been recognized as a Top 100 Most Innovative CMOs in the world, Top 50 CMOs, Top 20 most tech-savvy CMOs and Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing.

Kellyn graduated with a degree in Economics from Colgate University and has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Current status of women in broadband

Female leaders in broadband have demonstrated how gender quality has improved, but there is still more to be done, according to the GLF:

Gender diversity and inclusion are still not equitable in the workplace, with the gap becoming more pronounced in senior levels of organizations.

The GLF also states that initiatives to promote gender diversity can be clustered in three stages: acquisition, retention and return.

organization initiatives to promote gender diversity.

Company initiatives to attract women to the organization, keep them there or make them want to come back after previously leaving — especially at the senior level — remains important in closing the gender gap.

In terms of acquisition, the GLF discusses removing unconscious bias during the hiring process and attracting women with STEM backgrounds by promoting those subjects in schools to female students.

To retain female talent, initiatives focused on mentoring, management programs and job sharing are the focus of GLF survey respondents.

The GLF pinpoints the importance of “ensuring ongoing connectivity during their time out of the office to attract women to return to their roles after a career break.” Since the telecom industry constantly evolves, “there can be substantial change during the period of leave and as such it is critical to keep in contact.”

Women in STEM

According to the United States Census Bureau, women make up nearly half the U.S. workforce but only 27% of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers. The European Commission reported in 2019 that only 1 in 3 STEM graduates is a woman.

It’s safe to say that women are underrepresented in STEM, and initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion within these fields has never been more important.

Scholarships for women in STEM

Below we’ve listed various scholarships for women in STEM. These scholarships aim to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM to break down the gender gap and encourage diversity.

The Science Ambassador Scholarship

The Science Ambassador Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship for women in STEM. Applicants are required to submit a short video of themselves describing a STEM topic they’re passionate about. The applications are reviewed by a board of women who work in STEM and hold high degrees in their fields. Applicants can be high-school seniors or undergraduate college students.

Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship

The Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a female STEM student majoring in math, engineering, biological or physical sciences. It was created in honor of Virginia Heinlein, a chemist and engineer. This scholarship is also international, so any female studying for a four-year bachelor’s degree can apply.

Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail Endowed Scholarship

The Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail Endowed Scholarship is awarded to a female student majoring in engineering, manufacturing and closely related engineering and technology-related disciplines. It aims to encourage women to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing by awarding $1,000 – $6,000 in scholarships.

The bottom line

Female leaders across industries do more than contribute to their companies. They open the doors for future females and continue to break down gender barriers.

Through their extensive experience and continuous leadership, the female leaders in broadband that we’ve highlighted demonstrate the importance of empowering and encouraging women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Written by:

Camryn Smith

Associate Writer

Camryn Smith is an Associate Writer with Allconnect.com. She specializes in writing about the broadband industry and helping consumers navigate complex internet service purchasing decisions…. Read more

Edited by:

Joe Supan

Principal Writer, Broadband Content

By Career Center
Career Center