But that changed suddenly last October when Jan Peters was named CEO of the third-largest cable company in the country, MediaOne.
Not surprisingly, it took a company outside of cable -- U S West, the regional telephone company -- to set the table for Ms. Peters, 46.
It was a surprising set of circumstances that gave Ms. Peters her opportunity. U S West, headquartered in Denver, had bought Boston-based Continental Cablevision, touting the strength of its management team, particularly Amos Hostetter, Continental's founder-CEO. But Mr. Hostetter resigned last fall when U S West unexpectedly demanded that all of Continental's top managers move to Denver.
The ascension of Ms. Peters to the CEO post was more of a shock to the industry because she has no cable experience.
Brings fresh eyes
Her background has been in telephony, particularly wireless ventures. Prior to U S West, Ms. Peters was managing director of One 2 One, a U.K. wireless phone company co-owned by U S West.
With a strong management and business background, she brings a fresh eye to an industry that needs new ideas to move forward. Although she has no real background in the cable industry, top management at U S West is impressed with her past performance.
"I think cable is very exciting," she says, noting that it is a challenging time to be in the business. "We're at the point where broadband promises can be delivered with a whole new set of capabilities."
She likens the marketing challenge for cable to Mattel when that company realized "virtually every home that was going to have a Barbie doll had one. So what did they do? They came up with new Barbies."
Ms. Peters is also aware that as cable gets more involved with the digital world, more women should come to the fore. In the cyber field, she notes, "there are a lot more women in senior positions."