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Women in the Channel Event Highlights Successes

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Josh LongCHANNEL PARTNERS — The Women in the Channel (WiC) event was rocking with music, laughter and festivities Tuesday night, as hundreds of ladies gathered to learn about the progress of women in a telecommunications industry that has traditionally been dominated by the opposite sex.

 The event – a sellout with a vivacious audience – was convened on the eve of the first day of the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.

Gender diversity and leadership are challenging all industries in United States and across the globe, noted Rebecca Rosen of consultancy Sales Enabled, and a board member of WiC.

Nonetheless, women with careers in the telecommunications and IT sectors have reasons to be cheerful. An increasing number of them are moving up the ranks in corporate America and encouraging one another through organizations like Women in the Channel. {ad}

Such sources as the Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal have conceded that “highly diverse companies with women in leadership roles excel financially,” pointed out Nancy Ridge, WiC board member and executive vice president of Telecom Brokers.

Level 3 Communications is perhaps a U.S.-based telecom giant that is embracing diversity and finding that having more women in leadership roles is helpful to the bottom line. Lisa Miller of Level 3 pointed out that she now reports to a female boss.

Just weeks ago, Level 3 announced Laurinda Pang was appointed as the Regional President of North America and Asia Pacific. Miller herself is an accomplished executive — she serves as a senior vice president (wholesale & channel) with Level 3.

That women would ascend to such positions in the telecom industry was virtually inconceivable when TelePacific Communications Chief Executive Richard Jalkut entered the business decades ago. Jalkut, who enjoyed a 32-year tenure with NYNEX and its predecessor companies, described an old network culture that was dominated by men.

Times are certainly changing, albeit at a slower pace than many professional women would prefer. During the three-hour WiC event, it was duly noted that men still lead the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies.

Women who intend to rocket to the top of their organizations must be courageous in the face of old stereotypes and the myriad challenges that anyone with lofty ambitions encounters.

As former Frontier Communications Chief Executive Maggie Wilderotter told CNN last year, “We didn’t get to these jobs without being fearless and courageous at the same time as being good at what we do.”

Groups like Women in the Channel provide …

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… encouragement and offer a forum for collaboration.

“We come together because women throughout the ages have been masters at collaboration, at communicating – both listening and speaking out, at gathering resources and at executing change while in constant motion,” the organization explains on its website.

Hilary Gadda, director of TelePacific’s telepartner channel and president of WiC, said the grassroots organization has come a long way since its first event in Las Vegas in 2010. Nicole Hayward, a WiC board member and chief marketing officer with OnSIP Business VoIP, said membership has achieved double-digit growth.

The organization has not only captured the attention of outsiders including corporate behemoth IBM, WiC has developed an outreach program that educates young girls in schools on challenging careers in the telecom and IT fields.

Last year, WiC launched The Angel Advisory Program at the channel partners show to mentor younger women. Over the last 12 months, more than 130 new members have been paired with a mentor or so-called angel.

“We want to ensure that the new members understand and experience all of the benefits of the program,” said Julie Dzubay, director of indirect sales operations with Integra.

Miller of Level 3 advised women to maintain their confidence and not be afraid to approach their job with new ideas.  Attendees also were counseled to embrace their peers who have an opportunity for a promotion.

It was pointed out that women are often advised to act like men to get ahead in corporate America. But should they really act that way?

“Absolutely not,” said Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T Partner Solutions. “No. 1, just check out the shoes.”

Jalkut then added, “When guys get together, there are no hugs.”

Art Wittmann, a group vice president with Informa Exhibitions’ Channel Partners, briefly addressed the women earlier in the evening. He noted Channel Partners is a sponsor of WiC and half of the Channel Partners Business Advisory Board is comprised of women.

The Channel Partners Conference & Expo formally kicks off Wednesday. Wittmann noted this is the first channel partners show that will host more than 5,000 participants.

He cited a 20-percent increase in attendees and noted 40 percent of attendees are new to the show.


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