Mixing the profound in with the witty and practical, speakers at the inaugural Wireless Women’s Leadership Luncheon shared advice with attendees on how to best advance their careers, bring more collectiveness to the workforce and grow their networks. For me, it was a moment to pause and be in awe about the women leading the wireless industry, both in the private sector and in government. Not only were their stories empowering, their determination to move the industry forward to the next generation of professionals was palpable.
During a kickoff keynote, former Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn talked about the unique pivot point the country is at today. Noting February 1 marked the start of Black History Month, to be followed by International Women’s Day in March, Clyburn did not shy away from the tough issues facing the nation. “This is a room of resisters,” she told the roughly 300 people attending the luncheon, “and a room of embracers.” Clyburn shared that she knew there were whispers about whether she, as a nonlawyer, could lead the FCC. Keeping her eye on her goals brought success. “We are the women to smash those ceilings and escape those sticky floors.” Women need to lift each other up, even as the men in industry need to do the same. “Do not shy from the difficult. The power to change the world lies in this room, this industry, this town, this nation.”
Clyburn was followed by Narda Jones, chief of staff at the FCC. “Develop your squad” was Jones’ message, embraced in a self-deprecating fireside chat with Jennifer Schneider of American Tower. Jones noted her Hill experience enables her to distill an initiative to what matters. “What lights the fire? What moves the needle?” she relayed. Noting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is an advocate of women’s issues, she highlighted Rocenworcel’s championing of poor women and women of color, who are disproportionately affected by lack of access to broadband. And she coined the phrase “the homework gap” to distill that lack of access into a phrase that resonates.
Using humor to acknowledge that she has sometimes been the only person in the room who is a woman, a person of color and “someone over 50,” Jones told the younger professionals in the audience that decisions about their future are being made in rooms where they are not invited by people they don’t know. Engage, she advised.
We will write more about the event later, but I found a few running themes from industry leaders. Successful women have doubts, but take chances and realize that beyond their skillsets, they count on their networks for advice, feedback and support.
When brainstorming about the event, WIA President and CEO Patrick Halley said he wanted to work with WWLF to recognize the substantial contributions of women in government and industry that have led to the success of the wireless industry in the United States and engage in a substantive and meaningful discussion on steps that are being taken, and can be taken, to continue expanding opportunities for women in the wireless industry.
I think they nailed it!
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