MCNWW 2013: Wonder Women Reflect on Their Paths to Career Success

Irene Esteves is now closer to her goal of being “a cable guy.” Nancy Kanter is even farther away from a childhood home in a drab cul de sac. And TamaraFranklin is even more grateful that, after a brush with death as a child, she’s where she shouldn’t have been.

Those women and nine others in the 2013 class of Wonder Women — selected by Multichannel News and honored in part by the New York chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications — charmed a collection of about 810 people gathered to recognize them last Tuesday (March 19) at the Hilton New York.

It was a good year to take the “under” on how many honorees would cry on stage, and maybe the “over” on invisible plane and magic lasso references.

Still, the 15th annual class of high-powered cable executives packed memorable moments into a relatively rapid luncheon that ended 45 minutes before the 2 p.m. curfew.

Esteves, Time Warner Cable’s chief financial officer, had probably the best topical reference, at least for New Yorkers familiar with a controversial proposal to rebrand the company’s local New York 1 News channel into something else.

It came while thanking company EVP Peter Stern for patiently explaining to this cable-industry newcomer about the hybrid fi - ber coaxial network that delivered her NY1 in the morning.

“I mean Time Warner Cable News, I mean Pat Kiernan’s New York 1, whatever,” she joked, invoking the daytime anchor and Twitter star, who was also at the event.

Esteves talked about how chairman and CEO Glenn Britt showed her around the Cable Show floor in Chicago in 2011, before she joined the company, and introduced her to about 4,000 people. From that she learned, in cable, “everybody knew everybody else.” And she decided she wanted to be a cable guy.

Being a Wonder Woman, she said, moved her a bit closer to that goal.

Kanter, the Disney Junior Worldwide general manager, said she became a storyteller in response to growing up in a Long Island community that was “for me, as a kid and especially as a teenager, the single most uninteresting place in the world to live.”

“For as early as I can remember, books provided the place where I could go beyond the cul de sac and imagine a more exciting and adventurous life,” she said.

She grew up to become a film editor, and now, at Disney Channel, she tries to make children’s TV that will matter, with stories that will help them “move out of that cul de sac.”

Franklin had probably the best opening line: “I should not be here.”

Crossing a road in rural New Jersey as a child, she said, she found herself frozen, staring into the eyes of a driver in an oncoming car. Fortunately he swerved away. “So I learned early on that every moment was absolutely a gift.”

She said she also benefited from sacrifi ces by her parents and older siblings that enabled her to get the education she needed to start a career that led her to TVindustry jobs including, now, a role as an SVP at Scripps Networks Interactive. To younger women in the audience, she said, “please make sure that you reach out to us, and let us return that gift to you.”

The other Wonder Women honored were:

Jamia Bigalow, SVP of distribution marketing at Fox Networks, who said she was proud to have realized her dream, at Fox, of working in both entertainment and sports;

Denise Denson, EVP of content distribution and marketing at Viacom Media Networks, who spoke of starting out in a finance job at a health-care company whose “narrow world views” included barring women from playing at a company golf tournament;

Viviane Eisenberg, the chief counsel of programming, global marketing and global licensing at HBO, who said it’s important to be passionate about jobs you tackle and to strive for balance between work and everything else in life;

Jacqueline Hernandez, chief operating officer at Telemundo Media, who called “multicultural the new mainstream” and said, “You don’t have to like what you do — you have to love it, to be successful”;

Ava Jordhamo, the New York president of media agency Zenith, who cited an early mentor, Zenith’s Peggy Green, and confessed she wasn’t sorry that pregnancy sidelined her during the 2007-08 upfront, when the C3 ratings system took effect;

Cathy Kilstrom, SVP of customer care for Comcast’s West division, who praised her division’s chief, Steve White, as a transformative leader who had helped to change company’s culture of customer care;

Kim Norris, EVP of emerging businesses and data analytics, Cablevision Media Sales, who learned early on from business talk she heard as the daughter of an IBM executive, often around a poker table amid cigar smoke;

Donna Speciale, president of Turner Entertainment & Young Adults Ad Sales, who said executives must “adjust and be comfortable with constant change,” an attribute that helped her thrive at ad agencies before moving to the network side of the business a little over a year ago;

And Marjorie Kaplan, president of Animal Planet and Science & Velocity Networks at Discovery, who addressed the audience via an Internet connection from Chicago, where she was presenting at an upfront gathering. She said she wished she had super powers that would have allowed her to be in both cities at the same time but, “as all of you in the room know all too well, sometimes the priorities of professional and personal don’t align.”

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.