Chapter End of Year Message

Renita Griskel
2020 – 2021 Chapter President
WICT Southeast

Hello WICT Southeast Members!

What a year!  When “Connect to your peers, your industry and everything around you” was chosen as the WICTSE Touchstone for 2020, our Ruby Anniversary, no one had any idea how critical that touchstone would be for so many people.

My plans for the chapter were well underway when COVID-19 hit. The quick actions of the WICTSE board created a new plan of action allowing us to pivot from in-person events and programs to connect to all of you using virtual platforms.  While we all miss the one on one interaction, this necessary change gave many people throughout Atlanta, Knoxville, Nashville and Birmingham a chance to participate in all of our WICTSE programs. 

Members of our chapter were hit with unemployment, dealing first-hand with the severity of the virus and the uncertainty of what’s ahead. I am proud that one of the first things we did after the widespread onset of COVID-19 was partner with Feeding America to help feed families in need. Many of you supported this initiative and gave generously allowing us to surpass our goal and provide thousands of meals to families in our WICT Southeast footprint. 

The WICTSE response to COVID-19 is just one example of how the organization is in step with evolving widespread issues affecting our industry and community. Social injustice, specifically involving the black community is on the minds of many. I am so proud of how we addressed the issue with our Black Lives Matter: A Movement Not A Moment interactive panel discussion. We had the uncomfortable conversations and separated fact from fiction leaving participants informed and empowered!

We connected with all of you this year addressing the unique needs of 2020 along with the leadership development opportunities that WICTSE consistently provides. Global Mentoring, Tech It Out, Speed Mentoring and Resilience: Standing Strong showcased the mission of WICT to create women leaders who transform our industry. We did that as well with additional programs and events that targeted navigating the unprecedented times of 2020: Maintaining Motivation Through Uncertainty, Mind Your Business, The Art of the Staycation, WICT Happy Hour and of course S.T.I.R. Socialize, Talk, Interact, Remember. And we discussed the changing landscape of the cable industry with LGBTQ+: Exploring the Future By Learning From the Past.

This year we honored 7 amazing women for their accomplishments in the cable telecommunications industry during our first virtual Red Letter Awards. The gala was highly attended and well received. I am so proud of the honorees and the tremendous team behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to make this year’s gala one to remember! We also provided three chapter scholarships to this year’s virtual WICT Leadership Conference. WICT Global provided unparallel content, speakers, and workshops. I am happy that WICTSE was able to help three members attend for free!

While all of this was going on, we celebrated our chapter’s 40th Anniversary! We highlighted the work of the many women who came before us to lay the groundwork for the WICT Southeast Chapter. We learned about their journeys, challenges, and successes, through photos, interviews, and videos throughout the year.

So, as you can see, it’s been a busy and historic year. The pivot of events and programs was intense at times, but also an opportunity for growth. While there were challenges, our resilience is powerful! None of the work this year could have been accomplished without the help, support and expertise of the WICT Southeast board. I am grateful to have 31 talented women at my side committed to the mission of WICT.  Thank you all so much, I am truly honored to have worked with you! Thank you to Maria Brennan, WICT President and CEO and WICT Global for your tremendous encouragement and guidance. And thank you to the WICT Southeast membership for allowing me to be your president.  It was my privilege to lead the WICT Southeast Chapter this year and I look forward to what’s ahead for 2021!

Thank you!

 Renita Griskel

WICT Southeast President

WICT Southeast: The Best of Women Helping Women Succeed

By Sheri McGaughy, Chapter Advisor, and Shelley Hoffmann, Vice President, WICT Southeast

As WICT Southeast’s monumental 40th year comes to a close, I spoke with Sheri McGaughy, the current board Advisor and Executive Champion, about the impact of the organization. Sheri served on the Board of Directors in the roles of Secretary, President and Past President between 2006-2009 and is a past winner of the chapter’s Red Letter Horizon Award for Woman to Watch. She became the WICTSE advisor in 2012. I started by asking her about the Southeast chapter’s legacy.

In your view, what is the legacy of the Southeast chapter and its sustained longevity?

When I think about the Southeast chapter’s legacy, I think about some of the amazing women who laid the groundwork for all of us so many years ago:

  • Gail Sermersheim, then in Atlanta at HBO, who in 1980 decided that the women of the cable industry needed a safe space to learn from each other, gain skills, and move into positions of power and decided to start WICT
  • Jill Slavin, also in Atlanta at HBO, who in 1994 decided that the women of the cable industry needed a world-class year-long leadership program and started the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute
  • Alex Dombronovich, then at The Weather Channel and later at WICT National, who in 2006 was our chapter’s first African American President and mentored and inspired so many of us

Thanks to these women and many others, we now consistently have women in positions of power and influence in our industry.  When you talk to C-suite and other executive women in our footprint, almost all of them will share a story of how WICT has been instrumental in their growth as a leader.

The reason for the sustained longevity is that there is so much more work to do.  While I strongly believe that the cable industry is one of the best places for women to work, the PAR Initiative shows us that we are not fully at a place where women are getting/taking the same opportunities as men, and women of color are having an even harder time.  With the COVID pandemic, we are seeing even more impact on women on the workplace.  I read that 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce or dialing back their careers due to circumstances arising from the pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need our WICT connections to help us get past any roadblocks that may be holding us back and provide the guiding lights to show us the path forward.

What chapter-wide initiative stands out to you from your time as a leader with WICT Southeast?

In 2008, our strategic initiative was to expand the chapter outside of Atlanta for the first time. We had our first non-Atlanta board member, Jerilyn Bliss from Scripps (now Discovery, Inc). She was instrumental in pulling together a team in Knoxville, TN to have our very first event outside of Atlanta. It was a speed mentoring event, and we had over 100 people attend. From that initial start, we kicked off an extremely active program in Knoxville that has grown to about half the board members being in Knoxville, about a third of our members based in Knoxville and expansion to multiple other cities.

What has WICT meant to you over the years? How has it influenced you personally?

WICT has had an extraordinary influence on my personal growth. I was fortunate to be brought onto the Southeast board by Alex Dombronovich, who was one of the strongest leaders I have encountered in the industry.  She taught me so much about the soft skills that are essential for effective leadership. Participation on the WICT board helped me gain leadership and personal skills, and the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute program was life changing. Being a WICT a mentor has allowed me to help others as well as learn from them. All of these WICT experiences have resulted in lifelong friendships.

How did being involved with WICT help you professionally?

I can’t imagine a better organization for professional growth. From skills development, to mentoring, to making contacts that make your job more fun and enriching, it is an exceptional organization. Like many others, I have had promotions that stemmed directly from my WICT involvement.  I feel so lucky to have had WICT in my life. Most importantly, it represents the best of women helping women succeed.

How has leadership by women evolved since your involvement with the WICT Southeast board? And how far do we still have to go? (e.g. Black Lives Matter, shattering the glass ceiling, #metoo, #timesup)

With regard to the glass ceiling, there are some women and minorities who have broken through in our industry.  However, the overall numbers have leveled off. When we are in a world where it is groundbreaking for Goldman Sachs to require one, and only one, diverse board member on a company’s board before going public, there is clearly a disconnect.  If a company can bring on that one diverse person and check that box, the world continues with business as usual and no real change occurs. Amazing women and minority leaders are still sidelined. I feel there are changes happening in the industry with regard to representation and harassment. The press coverage certainly helps keep these issues in the forefront, but there is still a lot of work to be done to actually implement meaningful change. Even now, there is a growing backlash, and there are people, including women, who refuse to believe that things like race and sex based discrimination, harassment and assault happen. There is so much work to be done. The mission of organizations like WICT is far from fulfilled.

Any last words of advice for our chapter members as we wrap-up our memorable 40th year?

Go all in. WICT membership is about helping women succeed. It is an opportunity to help yourself and help others.  Almost all of us have one or more people who have helped us in a large or small way.  It could be a single sentence of advice, an introduction, a job lead, constructive feedback, or maybe an opportunity to grow skills. WICT opens the door to be on both the giving and receiving end of that help.  Jump through that doorway, and you will grow in ways you cannot begin to imagine.

WICT Southeast announces 2021 Board of Directors

Women in Cable Telecommunications Southeast (WICT SE) Chapter announces the members of its 2021 Board of Directors.

WICT SE is one of 24 Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) chapters across the US, Latin America, UK and Europe. WICT consists of over 10,500 members globally. The Southeast chapter is the second largest local chapter with over 1,000 members.         

The WICT SE Board represents the diverse functions of the cable industry and brings together members from over 15 companies located in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Each member has their own dynamic experience, distinctive perspective, and background.

Shelley Hoffmann (Healthgrades) incumbent Vice President rises to President in 2021. Gimette DeLaughter (Cox) incumbent Senior Director of Red Letter Awards transitions to Vice-President. Renita Griskel (Discovery, Inc.) incumbent President will move to Immediate Past President. The complete list of all the incoming board members appears below.

Later in year, the board will vote on the 2021 Touchstone, which currently is: CONNECT to your peers, your industry, and everything around you.

2021 INCOMING WICT SOUTHEAST BOARD OF DIRECTORS

PositionNameCompany
PresidentShelley HoffmannHealthgrades
Vice PresidentGimette DeLaughterCox Communications
Immediate Past PresidentRenita GriskelDiscovery, Inc
Senior TreasurerNatasha PrewittThe Weather Group
SecretaryLeslie PodraskyDiscovery, Inc
Advisor/Executive ChampionSheri McGaughyMcGaughy Law
Senior Director of ProgrammingMallory SummersPwC
Senior Director of PartnershipsJanine JohnsonComcast
Senior Director of Marketing/CommunicationsLisa ConklinCox Communications
Senior Director of MembershipLizzette TarverComcast
Senior Director of MentoringErika WeaverDiscovery, Inc
Senior Director of Red Letter AwardsCrystal ScalesComcast
TreasurerCindy HughesCox Communications
Director of CommunicationsChristina ThompsonCox Communications
Director of DesignAna AdlerAna Adler Creative
Director of Social Media MarketingAdrienne HoytCNN Worldwide & WarnerMedia News and Sports
Director of TechnologyLaura PoffenburgerAT&T Cricket Wireless
Director of Membership GA & ALSharon PrinceComcast
Director of Membership TNEmily JarvisComcast
Director of Outreach/PhilanthropyAngela CannonUP Faith & Family
Director of Programming ALVincine BrownComcast
Director of Programming GAOlivia HolmesKatz Networks
Director of Programming GAKasey WhiteCox Communications
Director of Programming TN KnoxvilleMelissa HarrisTelecom Training Corporation
Director of Programming TN NashvilleMeg GlennComcast
Director of Mentoring GA & ALAngela ManringCox Communications
Director of Mentoring TNValerie CarrilloDiscovery, Inc
Director of PartnershipsKerri HayesUPtv
Director of Red Letter AwardsJay BrownRandstad US
Director at Large – BylawsJennifer ThompsonPatrick Law Group
Director at Large – PartnershipTammina HartComcast
Director at Large – Executive OutreachKathy Hatala Blueprint RF/ Cox
Director at Large – Chapter ExpansionDana DawsonCox Enterprises
Director at Large – FinanceTBD 
Director at Large – Virtual TechnologyShakira IsomComcast
Director at Large – Absentee CoverageAnne LoescherKatz Networks

FROM BOARDROOM TO BALLROOM: GAIL SERMERSHEIM, WICT FOUNDING PRESIDENT

 

By Dana Dawson

As a WICT co-founder, first WICT President, co-founder of CTAM, 2002 Cable Hall of Famer, NCTA Vanguard Award winner, and WICT Southeast Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Gail Sermersheim is no stranger to both challenge and triumph.  A trailblazer with many firsts, Sermersheim’s perseverance, authenticity and passion for results were keys to her success both in and out of the boardroom.

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Sermersheim started her cable career in the late 1960s. She worked for a small MSO for 12 years and then landed at HBO where she retired as a senior executive after almost 3 decades. Shortly after she joined HBO, the then President of the company took her aside and said he’d like to see her become the company’s first female vice president for the sales and marketing division. From that moment on, she made it her mission to do whatever it took to prepare for the role.  And you know what?! She received the promotion in less than two years!

 “Men dominated the decision-making at all levels,” said Sermersheim, “at the time, sexual harassment was a tolerated business and social practice.”  She shared, “it was not uncommon to turn down both an unwanted advance and a business proposition at the same time.”  She went on to say, “women were expected to comply or just ignore it as reporting the behavior had no consequence.”

Picture2Focused on building strong relationships with her male counterparts, Sermersheim earned their respect.  She says, “while at times I had been subjected to pay inequity and passed over for big promotions, I learned how to harness my superpower.”  With assets such as focusing on facts, applying tough negotiating skills and using her charm, Sermersheim is unapologetic about leveraging her skill set to move forward.  

The journey to establishing WICT wasn’t an easy one.  Sermersheim and other founding members had to downplay the intent of WICT so that they could gain male sponsorship and support since the men held the purse strings.  She said, “the original documents stated WICT’s mission to be one of educating women rather than empowering them.” And in her view, “the real goal was to take the men’s jobs!”Picture1

Sermersheim hung up her corporate hat in 2002 and traded it in for dancing shoes.  She retired to Florida after almost 40 years in the cable industry.  These days you can find the 76-year-old cable veteran and women’s rights activist traveling the world on a wildlife safari or living out her best life as a competitive ballroom dancer.

To learn more about this WICT pioneer, click HERE

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WICT Southeast is celebrating its 40th Anniversary.  Throughout the year we will be highlighting quotes and stories from former WICT Southeast leaders and members in our newsletter and on our website and social media platforms. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.