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Women Still Left Out Of Communications Cos' Leadership

WASHINGTON — Less than 25% of the decision-makers in the communications industry last year were women, according to a study released Tuesday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Board chairs and vice-chairs, chief executives and operating officers are still overwhelmingly male among the largest communications companies and the trade associations that represent them, the study found.

"With few exceptions, we have not moved beyond tokenism in the number of women in top leadership positions or serving on the boards of communications companies," said Susan Ness, director of the group's Information and Society section and a former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission.

"With corporate governance under the microscope and stock exchange listing requirements tightening, boards are making an effort to increase the number of independent members," she added. "Ironically, women may have a greater opportunity now than ever before to be tapped as top executives and board members."

The study noted the companies' clear interest in courting women as consumers. But that importance in the marketplace doesn't seem to be reflected in the boardroom.

The study covered media and entertainment enterprises, telecommunications, publishing, e-companies and trade associations. Findings of male domination in the board room and executive suite were consistent across all sectors, according to information from the 2001 annual reports of publicly traded companies and other sources.

In the executive suite, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. (GMSTE) had the best record among entertainment conglomerates, with one of its four executives a woman. At the bottom was USA Networks, with all five of executives men.

Neither USA nor Fox Entertainment, a division of News Corp. (NWS), had any women on their boards. Nor did Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU) or AMC Entertainment Inc. (AEN).

The actual news organizations had a more even mix than the conglomerates that own them. Four of the nine executives at NBC News, or 44%, were women, compared to 19% at parent General Electric Co. (GE).

Overall, 30% of all news executives are women. But men manage five out of six local television stations, and four out of five cable systems.

In telecommunications, 25% of AT&T Corp.'s (T) 16 executives were women. By comparison, all four WorldCom Inc. (WCOEQ) executives were male.

SBC Communications Inc. (SBC) had one of the best records, with 29% of board members and 24% of top executives who were women.

Among publishing houses, women were in control at Scholastic Corp. (SCHL), where 52% of the 25 executives were women. Readers Digest Association Inc. (RDA) was at the bottom, with only one of its 17 executives, or 6%, were women.

Top editors of newspapers are overwhelmingly male - 73%. Only 14% of publishers are women

E*Trade Group Inc. (ET) led electronic commerce companies by hiring women for four of its 12 executive slots, or one-third. None of the five executives running USA Networks' USA Interactive were women.

-By Mark Wigfield; Dow Jones Newswires; 202-828-3397