Are high-powered women left on the shelf?

Joanna Parfitt on magazines aimed at the female executive

Browse through the magazine stands in any newsagent and it appears that women looking for a good read get a far better deal than men. Gripping headlines, free gifts, competitions and the promise of in-depth interviews and features on all kinds of lifestyle issues. Turn to the business section of the stands, however, and it's a different story.

Dee Ryan, operations manager of Cendant International Assignment Services in London, claims that while mainstream female titles do include the occasional profile of superwomen, the majority of these magazines focus on sex and shopping. "I want to hear about great women, how we have evolved and developed and how to make my life easier," agrees Alice Hurley, a project manager with Logica.

Echoing the view of an increasing number of women, she explains: "I want a magazine that is for women who work in male-dominated industries, not just for women who run their own beauty, health or fitness businesses. I want to read about the glass ceiling, financial independence, investing in an MBA, networking, living out of a suitcase and the work/life balance, for example."

She could, of course, turn to unisex business titles such as Management Today. One look at October's issue, though, and it becomes apparent that the advertising is aimed chiefly at men. The majority of the editorial also seems to focus on men, although there is one article on feminine leadership skills.

So why, when 42 per cent of today's managers are women, is it so hard to find a magazine that caters for the female manager or entrepreneur? Angela Giveon is editor of Executive Woman magazine, which first saw the light of day back in 1987. She believes that it is largely because such publications require a very particular mix of content. Some magazines have simply got it wrong and consequently failed. "We refuse to trivialise women," she explains. "We have regular fiscal, legal, coaching and practical features, and employ some of the finest women writers, like Tricia Mansfield and Lesley Abdela."

But despite Executive Woman's attention to content, the launch of its internet site last month and its new sister publication for the car-buying professional woman, Ignition, it still remains no mean feat trying to get hold of the magazine.

Another publication to leap at the gap in the market for a thinking, working woman's magazine is Women's Business, which was launched on the UK news-stands in September. Like Executive Woman it includes motoring, legal, financial, coaching and practical features. The internet, networking and the work/life balance are also regulars.

Unlike Executive Woman, however, the number of health and beauty items is kept to an absolute minimum. "I hope not to have to succumb to being led by health and beauty advertising. And when we do feature such issues we try to look at them from a self-image or self-performance angle," explains Ruth Dance, editor of Women's Business.

Women's Business was born out of Ms Dance's own need for a professional magazine that was woman-friendly without being too feminist. "I wanted to show advertisers that we could provide a platform for their services to be promoted to women. So many products were being marketed in male- oriented magazines. It seemed to me that they were missing out on a whole extra market."

Executive Woman website: www. execwoman.com; tel: 0208-420 1210

Women's Business e-mail: wib.society @virgin.net; tel: 01780 489111

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