Wonder Women Career Advice: Be Loyal and Carry a Big Stick

NEW YORK — “Stick with the people, always go with the people,” AMC Networks president of national advertising sales Arlene Manos said when it was her turn to share life lessons, career advice and a funny story or two as a Multichannel News Wonder Woman.

Manos, one of 13 executives in the current class of Wonder Women (as chosen by the editors of this magazine), followed her own advice 25 years ago in accepting a job officer as an account executive at A&E Network. She turned down a higher-paying position at a magazine she discreetly didn’t identify during her remarks at the celebratory luncheon last Thursday (March 10).

Manos got a promotion to management a year later. And she didn’t need to threaten violence, as fellow Wonder Woman Karen Grinthal, the Scripps Networks Interactive senior vice president of national ad sales, said she did in the late 1980s.

Grinthal told 700-plus attendees at the Hilton New York that she had been passed over for promotion to management three times when she started out at “male bastion” Turner Broadcasting System. When a fourth opportunity arose, she put aside the presentation she had prepared and got a baseball bat from the sports department. She held it over her boss’s head and told him, “This e_ ng job is mine — give it to me.”

“And that’s how I became a manager in the cable industry,” Grinthal said, in one of the day’s better punchlines.

Megan Clarken, president of global product leadership at Nielsen, and Cindi Hook, senior vice president, general auditor and global risk officer at Comcast, became business leaders after injuries short-circuited planned careers as, respectively, a track-and-field athlete and a dancer.

Clarken — who had left school at 16 and became “a broken-down athlete” in her late 20s — found in herself “a determination to be the very best there was at something, a resilience to never give up, a curiosity to listen, ask and learn — and an acknowledgement that you cannot do it on your own.”

Hook said that when it came time to choose a new path “shockingly, ‘general auditor’ and ‘global risk officer’ wasn’t on the menu of career choices.”

But it turns out the jobs require similar skills, she said. A mantra for ballerinas is, “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right,” she said, adding, “When we are doing our work as auditors and risk evaluators, if getting to the right answer doesn’t sometimes hurt a bit, you’re not doing it right.”

Fox Group executive vice president of litigation Jill Ratner was a skilled soccer player whose love of sports led to a career in the law. While on the University of California at Los Angeles soccer team, she helped found a group that threatened to sue the school over failure to provide equal opportunities for men and women athletes. She learned about “teamwork, standing up for what I believe in, perseverance and the power of the law.”

Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer of WWE and daughter of the wrestling entertainment firm’s chairman, Vince McMahon, and former, CEO Linda McMahon, told a story about learning that women shouldn’t feel they have to “do it all” all the time, and “it’s OK to let go a little bit and rely on our support systems to help care for our children.”

Her daughter, Murphy, was sad that McMahon was unable to be at school to see Murphy’s second-grade project about endangered sea turtles because of the Wonder Women luncheon. McMahon’s husband, wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque, filled in admirably, and father and daughter had a great bonding experience. “And now I get to go home and show them proof that Mommy really is a Wonder Woman.”

“All working women, mothers or not, are going to have to make personal sacrifices,” McMahon said. “It will never be an even balance. You do the best you can to prioritize and make it work.”

Pam Kaufman, the chief marketing officer and president of consumer products at Nickelodeon Group, recalled starting at Nick 18 years ago when she was “a young, naïve executive” who was eight months’ pregnant with her daughter, Amanda. She questioned whether or not she could handle a new job, a new company, leading a new team and still have “something left” for her family. It all worked out — and along the way she learned it’s important to always be nice to everyone, to stay curious and “don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.”

ESPN senior vice president of multimedia sales Patricia Betron said her mom, who returned to being a nurse to support her family after divorce, relied on babysitters, friends and relatives to help look after her four young kids. That was stressful on everyone, especially Betron and her siblings.

Then, in 2005, Betron served on an ESPN task force studying work-life balance issues — which, with support from key executives, led the company to build an on-site childcare center.

“I share this story with you today because, as we celebrate these Wonder Women, we celebrate how having women in high-ranking positions changes the conversation in our companies,” she said.

More of these stories — and those of fellow Wonder Women Nicole Buie, vice president of marketing at Cox Media; Holly Jacobs, EVP of U.S. reality and syndicated programming at Sony Pictures Television; Michelle Rice, EVP of content distribution and marketing at TV One; Savalle Sims, EVP and deputy general counsel at Discovery Communications; and Ellen Stone, EVP of marketing at Bravo and Oxygen Media — will be available as videos soon on mcnwonderwomen.com. Click here for photos from the luncheon. For more Wonder Women coverage, visit multichannel.com/mcnww.

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 Nexttv.com. 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.