Written by Madeline Johnson
With roots tracing back to 1911, Women’s History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate female trailblazers. There are many influential women within the cable and telecommunications industry who broke barriers for their successors, encouraging modern women to pursue careers within the field.
This past month, we’ve recognized some of the key female players. This has included Oprah Winfrey, the richest African American of the twentieth century and the world’s only Black billionaire for three years running. She is also an acclaimed activist and philanthropist, having donated $425 million to charitable organizations throughout her career.
Progress for women within news broadcasting happened incrementally. In 1960, Nancy Dickerson was the first woman to be hired as a network correspondent by CBS News. In 1988, Carole Simpson was hired as a Sunday news anchor for ABC’s World News Tonight, becoming the first African-American woman to be named anchor of a major network newscast. She made political history in 1992, when she became the first minority woman to ever moderate a presidential debate between George H. W. Bush, Ross Perot, and then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
A legend within the broadcasting sphere, in 1976 Barbara Walters became the first woman co-anchor of a network evening news program when she joined ABC with an unprecedented $1 million annual salary. She made history on March 3, 1999, when her interview with Monica Lewinsky became the most-watched news interview in broadcast history, with an audience of nearly 50 million. Following Walters footsteps as the second woman ever to hold one of the main network anchor chairs, in 1993, Connie Yu-Hwa Chung became the first woman to co-anchor CBS Evening News, as well as the first Asian-American to anchor one of America’s major network newscasts. Holding both Emmy and Peabody awards, Chung has worked as either an anchor or a reporter for NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC.
There were progressive steps for greater representation of women in sports broadcasting in 2018. Marysol Castro made history when she became the first female public address announcer for the New York Mets and the first Latina PA announcer in Major League Baseball. Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm became the first all-female broadcast team to call an NFL game, providing commentary and analysis for Thursday Night Football. Typically a male-dominated environment, these women are paving the way for future diversity efforts in sports.
There are many influential women in the corporate structures and boardrooms of the cable and telecommunications industry, such as Lucie Salhany, who was the first woman to head a broadcast television network in 1993 as Chairwoman of Fox Broadcasting Company. She later created the United Paramount Network. Another innovator, Kay Koplovitz, became the first woman to run a national cable network in 1977. She founded the SyFy Channel and the USA Network, the latter of which she acted as Chairman and CEO for over 20 years. She created the modern business model for cable networks with the introduction of the concept of two revenue streams: licensing and advertising.
This past month we also looked at historical figures, such as Erna Schneider Hoover, an American mathematician who invented a computerized telephone switching method which “revolutionized modern communication.” She’s one of the first software patent holders in technological history. We also celebrated Ada Lovelace, the first-ever computer programmer, primarily known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her work was honored posthumously, influencing modern computer science in the 1950s, almost 100 years after her death. Lovelace was a pioneer within the math and science field, paving the way for women such as Shirley A. Jackson, the first African-American woman to receive a PhD in Theoretical Solid-State Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research laid the foundation for future innovators to build solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the portable fax.
This Women’s History Month we recognize and celebrate those who paved the way before us, breaking down boundaries and granting us a seat at the table by learning more about their contributions, we honor their work, and will hopefully be inspired to adapt some of their qualities for greater success.