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WiC Leading Lights Finalists: Most Inspiring Woman in Comms

Sarah Thomas

To improve the industry for women in comms, it takes a genuine commitment from leaders at the top, as well as champions throughout each organization, to hold them accountable and spark change from within.

Recognizing this, Women in Comms set out to honor those women who are inspiring change for their own companies and the industry at large. This Leading Light will go to "a woman who has worked tirelessly and effectively to advance the cause of women and girls in the next-gen comms industry."

We were thrilled to have a number of worthy entrants, which made narrowing it down to just five a daunting task. The five women we ended up with have dedicated themselves to empowering women, both internally and externally from young girls to those established in their careers, in addition to their full-time jobs. In most cases, they've also seen tangible results from their efforts. Truly championing change is not an easy task in already overstretched schedules, but they've all made women in comms a priority and are inspiring others to do the same. (See Women in Comms Leading Lights: The Finalists.)

The winner will be announced at the Leading Lights awards dinner, which will be held during the evening of Monday, May 23, at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas, following WiC's one-day conference and job fair ahead of the Big Communications Event.

Cathy Martine, President, National Business, AT&T Business Solutions & International, AT&T
As one of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s highest ranking female executives with P&L responsibilities, Martine leads one of AT&T's largest business with more than 7,000 associates serving 3.5 million customers. Yet even with such a demanding job, she has made mentorship, developing talent and achieving gender equality a priority in her organization. She was a founding Board member of AT&T University, which offers leadership development to all employees; is involved with AT&T's entry-level college-hire program, the Business Sales Leadership Development Program (BSLDP); and is an active board member on AT&T's Employee Resource Groups for Women of AT&T with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Martine has also made giving back through mentorship a priority, both inside and outside of AT&T. She was a founding Board member and current Development Committee member of the Rutgers Future Scholars Program, mentors through W.O.M.E.N. in America and works with female entrepreneurs and small business owners through the Women's Center for Entrepreneurship.

Perhaps most tellingly, her commitment to diversity at AT&T is also measurable with women making up 40% of her employee base, 25% of whom are in sales management.

Keri Gilder, Vice President & General Manager EMEA, Ciena
Gilder has risen the ranks at Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), while also making a fairly significant career transition from being an engineer to leading the sales organization across Europe. She attributes much of her success to the mentors she has had throughout her career, which is -- in part -- why she's made mentoring other rising stars at the company a priority. Most notably, Gilder created "Women @ Ciena," an internal networking program with the goal of encouraging diversity within the company, fostering talent and motivating and inspiring women in the company. She regularly leads mentoring programs, external networking events, discussions and debates and encourages the hiring, development and retention of women.

Ciena COO Francois Locoh-Donou has said of Gilder: "She is also a transformational leader; reinforcing the business benefit of a diverse workforce and driving high-performance teams to deliver strong business outcomes for our customers and partners."

Marie Hattar, Chief Marketing Officer, Ixia
Hattar has only been with Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) since June 2015, but she's already bringing her commitment to promoting women to this new job. Over the past nine months, 63% of her new hires were women, something she says she achieved by simply hiring the best person for the job and approaching recruiting without a gender bias. She has also made herself known for having an open-door policy encouraging women at the company -- which is also lead by a female CEO, Bethany Mayer -- to come to her for guidance, assistance and support.

Sandi Mays, EVP, IT & Billing, Client Service Management, Tranzact; Big Data, Zayo Group
When it comes to Mays' contributions to women in comms, the numbers speak for themselves. Her team is 63% female, she has hired more than 50% females in the past two years and her employee satisfaction results are the highest of anyone in Zayo Group Inc. (NYSE: ZAYO). She was also the force behind launching zForce, an internal program at the company that lets employees work with mentors, experience what it's like to be in a technical leadership position and attend Zayo's annual Dreamforce conference. Here again, the numbers don't lie as this program is made up of 50% women.

Mays also takes her commitment to mentoring outside of the office, working with young women in the Greenhouse scholars program, participating in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference and staying involved with Women in IT, Dreamforce, the CU Technology Club, STEM events and regular hackathons.

Yanbing Li, Senior Director, System Software Development & Delivery, Fujitsu Network Communications
An engineer by trade and a leader in Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)'s software development group, Li is no stranger to highly technical job functions and being in a male-dominated profession. She's used both experiences to have a real impact on the vendor's technological innovations and its cultural of inclusivity. She was instrumental in creating Fujitsu's Women's Innovation Network (WIN), a group to help women within the company shine and women outside the company learn about opportunities in STEM.

In the past year alone, Li has partnered with the University of Texas at Dallas Women in Engineering Program to share her experience, contributed to Engineering Day and Week at the UT Dallas, participated in the Alliance of Technology and Women to promote girls and women in STEM, worked with Fujitsu human resources to establish internships for high school girls, spoke at InnoTech Dallas 2016 in the Women in Tech track and engaged with peers in the promotion of women within the global Fujitsu organization.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

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User Rank: Light Beer
5/17/2016 | 8:46:35 PM
Re: mentors
This is awesome!!!!  
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
5/13/2016 | 9:52:01 AM
Congratulations to all these inspiring women! You'll get to hear more from them in the coming weeks/months too as they have all agreed to do Mentor Monday profiles for Women in Comms. I love learning from experienced, talented, smart woman like the five in this group. 
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