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Geraldine Laybourne - 2024 Bresnan Award Honoree

Geraldine Laybourne, Cable Entrepreneur and Chairman of DAY ONE Early Learning Community, named the 2024 Bresnan Award recipient

Cable Entrepreneur and Chairman of DAY ONE Early Learning Community

Gerry Laybourne has spent much of her extraordinary career listening to others, and turning what she learns from them into gold. Her achievements led to her 2004 induction into the Cable Hall of Fame. Like Bill Bresnan, she has always used business as a jumping-off point to make the world a better place, and her efforts on behalf of women and children have earned her the 2024 Bresnan Award.

Laybourne took over the management of Nickelodeon in 1984 and led the network to top ratings and awards over the next 16 years. She says she did it by listening. “My mentors in how to run Nickelodeon were kids and my staff,” she says. “I went to more focus groups listening to kids than probably any TV executive in the history of television.”

Inspired by an early mentor, Bernice Coe, the founder of Women in Cable (now the WICT Network), Laybourne was determined to help women advance in the industry. “When I was president of Nickelodeon, at least ten percent of my speeches would be for women’s groups,” she recalls. As a result, “so many young women would call my office to get my advice. My assistant figured out I didn’t need any more breakfast or lunch meetings. So we invited people to walk with me around Central Park Mondays and Fridays at 7 a.m. That became the mentor’s walk.”

Laybourne founded Oxygen Media and in 2000 launched the first network owned and operated by women. The network was targeted to young women, and mentor’s walks became a part of its brand. Four hundred women participated in the first walk, and Oxygen took it to other cities across the U.S. Today, Laybourne is vice chairman of Vital Voices, which supports 165 annual Mentoring Walks in more than 80 countries.

With a master’s degree in elementary education, Laybourne’s deepest commitment is to early childhood education. “There was curriculum behind everything” at Nickelodeon, she says.

As an undergraduate at Vassar College and later as a board member, Laybourne became interested in the public school system in Vassar’s hometown, Poughkeepsie, New York. In 2020, just 48 percent of the city’s students were graduating from high school, and Laybourne believed it was because Poughkeepsie was a “child care desert.” She co-founded DAY ONE, which created a community-based approach to building a skilled childcare workforce, working with teachers, children, parents, and communities. Now in its third year, the non-profit is focused on Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County, but has already drawn wider attention.

Laybourne serves on statewide and U.S. Senate task forces for early childhood education. “We’re in high expansion mode, and it all reminds me of Nickelodeon,” she says. “[DAY ONE’s] results are better than we thought they’d be. It’s because we’re concentrating on the audience. Everything I learned in the cable industry, I’m using.”

2004 Cable Hall of Fame Honoree

2000 Oral History

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