Celebrating Women’s History Month: Female leaders in broadband

Camryn Smith

Feb 28, 2024 — 8 min read

We highlight various female leaders in the broadband industry.

female leaders in broadband

Women have played a vital role in the telecom industry for generations, but remain vastly underrepresented.

According to the Global Leaders Forum Survey, the gender gap is highest in technical and commercial roles. This is not an anomaly — across multiple industries including telecom, life sciences and healthcare, consumer business, financial services and energy and resources, there is less than 30% female representation in companies’ boards of directors. 

A greater concern is that female representation in the top 20 telecom companies is actually lower than it is at the board level. The gender gap increases within technical roles, with representation on management teams falling by almost 10% (excluding HR and Corporate Responsibility roles). 

Women’s History Month celebrates women’s contributions throughout history. Here at Allconnect, we want to commemorate this by highlighting significant female figures in the telecom industry, specifically, women in broadband. 

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who identify as transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

History of women in telecom

Women’s involvement in the telecommunications industry dates back to the invention of the telegraph and the telephone in the 19th century. 

Like most industries during this time, the telecom sector did not give women equal positions to their male counterparts — but they were no less pivotal in the development and advancement of the industry over time.  

When the first telephone exchange offices were built in the early 20th century, women were hired as “cable girls.” They were responsible for connecting the correct telephone line to the correct telephone jack to ensure a connection. 

Working in this industry became increasingly common for women, especially during the First World War. Despite their importance to the industry, they were paid significantly less than men – something women would fight against for generations to come. 

Progress and setbacks for women in telecom

As technology advanced rapidly, there have been clear efforts to close the gender gap across industry groups. 

While women in the 21st century have progressed in gaining leadership positions, equal pay and rights in the workplace, the telecom industry is still male-dominated at the senior level.  

According to the World Economic Forum, the percentage of women holding leadership positions decreases as the seniority of the position increases. From entry-level to C-Suite positions, female representation in the technology, media and information sector drops to 20%.

Gender gap in female leadership

The GLF reflects this trend as well, reporting that 95% of the companies that responded to the survey claim that less than 50% of their management team roles are held by women, while 60% responded that women hold less than 25% of the roles. 

Female leaders in broadband

Below we’ve highlighted (in no particular order) influential female leaders in the broadband industry. Through their extensive experience, contributions and leadership, they have broken boundaries and paved the way for future female leaders. 

Su Shin – President and General Manager, Hawaiian Telcom 

Su Shin oversees the leadership and management of Hawaiian Telcom’s operations and corporate staff. Hawaiian Telcom, part of Altafiber, is the dominant internet provider in Hawaii. Shin is the first female president in the company’s 140-year history.

Before becoming President of Hawaiian Telcom, Su was Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Marketing and Communications. 

Su is an alumna of the University of La Verne in California. She serves on Aloha United Way’s Board of Directors, and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Hawai’i’s military Affairs Council and Hawai’i Green Growth’s Sustainability Business Forum. 

Kia Painter – Executive Vice President & Chief People Office, Cox Communications

Kia Painter is responsible for leading the development and execution of Cox’s talent strategy. She also focuses on driving growth in Cox’s business. Before assuming this role, Kia served as Senior Vice President of HR Business Partnerships.

Kia earned her undergraduate degree at James Madison University and then went on to earn her Master’s in Human Resource Development from The George Washington University. After that, Kia earned her Executive MBA from Tulane University. She started her career at Cox as a part-time HR assistant and rose through the ranks to earn her role on the Cox leadership team.

Jessica Fischer – Chief Financial Officer, Charter Communications 

Jessica Fischer has served as the Chief Financial Officer of Charter Communications (Spectrum) since 2021. She oversees accounting, finance, tax and risk management, procurement, investor relations, internet audit, corporate budgeting and planning. She also manages Spectrum’s equity and capital markets strategy and execution. 

Before joining Spectrum’s leadership team, Jessica was a partner in the National Tax Department at EY.

Jessica is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting. 

Kate Johnson – President and Chief Executive Officer, Lumen Technologies

Kate Johnson is Lumen’s (CenturyLink) President and CEO. She joined the company in 2022 and is focused on digital innovations and creating the best customer experience solutions at Lumen.

Prior to assuming her role at Lumen, Kate held executive leadership roles at Microsoft and GE Digital, as well as other commercial and technology leadership roles at companies like Deloitte and UBS Investment Bank.

Kate earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University and her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Amy Wulfestieg – Chief Communications Officer for Brightspeed 

Amy Wulfestieg is Brightspeed’s Chief Communications Officer. She handles internal and external communications, media relations, organizational change management and social media strategy. 

Amy has held various senior-level communications roles across industry groups and is an alumna of Valparaiso University where she got her bachelor’s in Sociology, Humanities and Business. She also holds an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Organizational Behavior from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. 

Dalila Wilson-Scott – Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation

Dalila Wilson-Scott is Comcast’s Executive VP and Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal foundation. Dalila oversees all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and the company’s philanthropic efforts. She also spearheads Comcast’s community impact initiatives.

Before joining Comcast, Dalila was Head of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase and President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Dalila holds an MBA in Finance and Management and a bachelor’s in Economics from New York University.

Kellyn Smith Kenny – Chief Marketing and Growth Officer, AT&T

Kellyn Smith Kenny oversees advertising, brand strategy, media strategy and planning, market research, customer intelligence and strategic partnerships for AT&T Communications. 

Before joining AT&T Kellyn was the global Chief Marketing Officer at Hilton Worldwide and held senior positions at Uber Technologies, Capital One Financial and Microsoft. She has been recognized as a Top 100 Most Innovative CMOs in the world, Top 50 CMOs, Top 20 most tech-savvy CMOs and Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing. 

Kellyn graduated with a degree in Economics from Colgate University and has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. 

Christi H. Cornette – Chief Administrative Officer, altafiber

Christi Cornette is responsible for altafiber’s corporate marketing, brand strategy, employee development, internal and external communications, community involvement and events and scholarships. She’s been with the company since 2001 and has 30 years of marketing, sales and technology experience.

Christi is active in her community, serving as President of the Joel Cornette Foundation, which funds research for the study of athletes and heart disease in partnership with the American Heart Association and Duke University. She has a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University.

Current status of women in broadband

Female leaders in broadband have demonstrated how gender quality has improved, but there is still more to be done, according to the GLF: 

Gender diversity and inclusion are still not equitable in the workplace, with the gap becoming more pronounced in senior levels of organizations.

The GLF also states that initiatives to promote gender diversity can be clustered in three stages: acquisition, retention and return.

organization initiatives to promote gender diversity.

Company initiatives to attract women to the organization, keep them there or make them want to come back after previously leaving — especially at the senior level — remains important in closing the gender gap. 

In terms of acquisition, the GLF discusses removing unconscious bias during the hiring process and attracting women with STEM backgrounds by promoting those subjects in schools to female students. 

To retain female talent, initiatives focused on mentoring, management programs and job sharing are the focus of GLF survey respondents. 

The GLF pinpoints the importance of “ensuring ongoing connectivity during their time out of the office to attract women to return to their roles after a career break.” Since the telecom industry constantly evolves, “there can be substantial change during the period of leave, and as such it is critical to keep in contact.” 

Women in STEM

According to the United States Census Bureau, women makeup nearly half the U.S. workforce but only 27% of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers. The European Commission reported in 2019 that only 1 in 3 STEM graduates is a woman. 

It’s safe to say that women are underrepresented in STEM, and initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion within these fields has never been more important. 

Scholarships for women in STEM

Below we’ve listed various scholarships for women in STEM. These scholarships aim to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM to break down the gender gap and encourage diversity. 

The Science Ambassador Scholarship

The Science Ambassador Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship for women in STEM. Applicants are required to submit a short video of themselves describing a STEM topic they’re passionate about. The applications are reviewed by a board of women who work in STEM and hold high degrees in their fields. Applicants can be high-school seniors or undergraduate college students. 

Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship 

The Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a female STEM student majoring in math, engineering, biological or physical sciences. It was created in honor of Virginia Heinlein, a chemist and engineer. This scholarship is also open internationally, so any female studying for a four-year bachelor’s degree can apply. 

BHW Scholarship 

The BHW Scholarship is a $3,000 scholarship available to women pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics during the 2024 school year. Applications opened in January and close in April.

Explore organizations supporting women in telecom

Learn more about women in telecom from these organizations:

The bottom line 

Female leaders across industries do more than contribute to their companies. They open the doors for future females and continue to break down gender barriers. 

Through their extensive experience and continuous leadership, the female leaders in broadband that we’ve highlighted demonstrate the importance of empowering and encouraging women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries.  

Camryn Smith

Written by:

Camryn Smith

Cammy is a writer with Allconnect, growing her broadband industry knowledge for over a year on the internet marketplace. Her expertise lies in home internet and broadband service with a focus on providers, plans… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Read bio