ABM devotes January to women in media

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Peggy Walker, president-COO of Vance Publishing Corp., fondly recalls American Business Media's Top Management Meeting in 2006, when every single work session was moderated by a woman.

"We need to point out that there are women who are successful in b-to-b media and can be role models," said Walker, who last spring was named 2007-08 treasurer of ABM, the first woman to be named to the organization's executive committee. "It's very important because there are a lot of people who don't know that there are a number of successful women throughout b-to-b media, working in publishing, events and ad agencies."

In an effort to recognize the changing face of the business information industry, ABM is devoting the month of January to women in b-to-b. The efforts include interviews on ABM's Video Network with some of the industry's top female executives, including Allison Arden, recently appointed publisher of Advertising Age. (Advertising Age, like Media Business, is published by Crain Communications Inc.)

On Jan. 23, ABM will host Women in Business-to-Business: Real Stories, Real Successes. The event, to be held at the Prince George Ballroom in New York, will recognize the career achievements of several executives.

In addition to Walker, ABM will honor: Deirdre Bigley, VP-worldwide advertising and interactive at IBM Corp.; Nina DiSesa, chairwoman of McCann-Erickson New York; Mary Dolaher, CEO of IDG World Expo; Erin Moriarty, a news correspondent on CBS' "48 Hours"; and Gloria Scoby, senior VP-group publisher of Crain Communications.

"Everybody needs to see that this industry is ecumenical and that there are more women moving into strong and high-ranking positions in business media, whether it's editor in chief, publisher or senior executive," said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM. "We want to point out those cases."

Hughes added: "I'm a little surprised we still have to do this. But it's another way to celebrate our business, whether it's the Neal Awards or the CEBAs, and it's all about excellence."

Scoby said the fact that a number of women are now in charge of b-to-b media companies illustrates how open the sector has historically been to female executives compared with other industries.

"When you have been a minority in any field, it's always easy to backslide," she said. "So Gordon is keeping the issue of female executives front and center, and this month's efforts are a good way to do it."

DiSesa, who has been chairman of McCann New York for a decade, is the author of "Seducing the Boys Club" (Ballantine Books), a book about women's challenges in the workplace that will be available Jan. 29. She applauded ABM's efforts and noted that women still face tremendous obstacles in cracking the glass ceiling.

"Gordon is trying to put the spotlight on women in b-to-b, but the industry can't do enough," she said. "I learned when I was writing the book that all the sweeping changes in women's roles in the workplace in the last 30 years are significant because we came from such a low place."

McCann, for one, is leading by example when it comes to promoting women executives. Four divisions in its New York office are run by women.

"We're far from being a boys club," DiSesa said. "But when I got here in 1994 as creative director, I was the only woman running a department."

DiSesa added that the industry must "keep up the chatter" about women in b-to-b media—and in particular successful women working in the business—if it really wants to be a change agent.

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