A look back at the 2019 Signature Luncheon

The 2019 Signature Luncheon, WICT’s key gender diversity and inclusion platform, took place at The Plaza Hotel in New York City on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Industry leaders from across the country and abroad filled the hotel’s Grand Ballroom to celebrate WICT’s 40th anniversary during a very special luncheon designed to honor the past, celebrate the present, and imagine the future of WICT and the industry we represent. In a poignant opening segment that began with Lucille Larkin and Gail Sermersheim, WICT’s first Executive Director and Board Chair, respectively, a collective of WICT’s founders, foremothers and friends, each shared a brief statement defining what WICT means to them.  

WICT founders, leaders and friends took to the stage to define what WICT means to them.

Maria E. Brennan, CAE, WICT President & CEO, addressed the group of opening speakers by saying, “You demonstrate that WICT is many things to many people. Though one common thread connects us — our commitment to equality.” Though the event was a celebration of WICT’s indelible impact on the industry, Brennan added, “By no means is our work here done. Far from it. In a new era of “Time’s Up,” the value of an organization like ours – one that supports gender diversity and inclusion – remains increasingly relevant and paramount to member companies. Because we know that by investing in women, we are creating a pipeline of leaders that will help innovate, inform and influence the industry for the next 40 years to come!”

Members of the WICT Global Board of Directors on stage during the 2019 Signature Luncheon.

Karen Buchholz, SVP of Administration, Comcast, and WICT Global Board Member, underscored the importance of WICT’s resources and the impact it has had on the company, “Comcast NBCUniversal has been proud to partner with WICT in driving visible growth in gender diversity and inclusion throughout our company’s workforce, from the frontline to the board room.”

Comcast's Karen Buchholz speaks onstage during the WICT Signature Luncheon.

During his remarks to the sold-out audience, Charter President & CEO, Tom Rutledge, described WICT as “THE go-to source for women interested in both personal and professional development in the industry.”

Charter Communications' Tom Rutledge speaks during the WICT Signature Luncheon.

Rutledge then introduced WICT’s commemorative video, which highlighted some of the milestones the organization has marked since its inception in 1979.

Before leaving the stage, Rutledge welcomed the first of three special guest speakers, Abbe Raven, Acting Chairman, A+E Networks. Reprising her renowned Pearls of Wisdom speech, Raven commended WICT for its successes but noted that there are still inroads to be made with regard to diversity and inclusion. “My wish was that there wasn’t a need for an organization like this, that if we did have a WICT it would be to celebrate the many joys of sisterhood. While we have much to applaud, we still have a mountain ahead to climb.”

Above, left to right: Speakers Egypt Sherrod, Abbe Raven and Kimberly Brooks at the WICT Signature Luncheon.

Anchor and Correspondent for ABC News Live, Kimberly Brooks, spoke next, recounting her early years and how her experiences contributed to her boundless ambition. “I remember the words my former boss said on my very last day: ‘What are you gonna go do, work for Oprah?’ I smiled and thought to myself ‘Yes, I am.’ He couldn’t see my vision…but it was precisely my plan.” Egypt Sherrod then addressed the crowd, urging the audience to “do what makes you happy.” The TV and radio show host and author revealed the hardships she encountered during in her career journey which led her to establish her foundation, the Egypt Cares Family Foundation. “I wanted to create the perfect reflection of my heart and what I felt I had to offer the world,” she added.

WICT Vice Chair Sandy Howe (left) and Chair Marva Johnson (right).

Following the three mini-keynotes, WICT Chair, Marva Johnson, VP, State Government Affairs - South Region, Charter Communications, and Vice Chair, Sandy Howe, EVP and President, Americas, Technetix, presented each “Pearls” speaker with a Diversity Champion Medal, specially commissioned by WICT for their commitment to gender equity. Each “Pearl” also received Tiffany pearls as a token of WICT’s gratitude.

Pat Esser and Leigh Woisard from Cox Communications onstage at the WICT Signature Luncheon.

Pat Esser, President of Cox Communications and Leigh Woisard, WICT Executive Committee Member and SVP, Corporate Public Affairs for Cox, introduced WICT’s very first Public Service Announcement and its accompanying #LeadWithMore social media campaign. The campaign is designed to increase the pipeline of women in the cable media industry, specifically in technology roles.

The celebration continued with Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, David L. Cohen and Martha Soehren, WICT’s Immediate Past Chair and Chief Talent Development Officer and SVP for Comcast NBCUniversal, announcing WICT had made a donation in Maria Brennan’s name to her favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, in honor of Brennan’s 10th anniversary at the helm of WICT. Brennan then closed the lunch program with a toast to WICT's next 40 years.

Comcast's David Cohen (left) with Maria E. Brennan (right).

Photos by Larry Busacca & Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

WICT gratefully acknowledges the sponsors of the 2019 Signature Luncheon

Scroll through 40 years of WICT history using the timeline below