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Women Are Still Scarce in Top Media, Telecom and High-Tech Jobs

Other panelists urged women to foster relationships that will help them ascend the corporate ladder. Diane Sutter, chief executive of Shooting Star Broadcasting, has put together a 10-month training program for women in cooperation with the National Association of Broadcasters. Women who participate in the Broadcast Training Leadership Program are taught by "the bankers and the brokers and the group heads they'll need to know," Sutter said.

Maggie Wilderotter, chief executive of Wink Communications Inc., a San Francisco Bay area telecom firm, emphasized the need to become acquainted with operational and technical issues early in one's career.

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"When I started four years ago I had never raised money before in my life," she said, noting that she has since raised $180 million. "If I had a blueprint that would have given me a smoother path, it would have made a big difference."

Sometimes those job trajectories can take women to unexpected and uncertain places, said Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, a senior vice president in the D.C. office of SBC Communications Inc. Hill-Ardoin said that early in her career she resisted taking a job in one of SBC's plants. But her experience there gave her a better understanding of inventory, equipment and the fundamentals of the business while burnishing her credentials.

"We've got to do some things perhaps we don't see ourselves doing," Hill-Ardoin said.

The Pennsylvania study recommended that companies pour more time and energy into internal diversity audits, recruiting and mentoring programs, and urging industry associations to find women to serve as public speakers at high-profile events.

"You cannot be successful in an insular context in business," said Leo Hindery, former chief executive of Global Center Inc., the Internet subsidiary of Global Crossing Ltd.

The study used information from companies on the Fortune 1000 list -- firms identified as prominent electronic companies and network news organizations -- as well as business Web sites and corporate filings. It found that 97 of the 757 executives were women.

Among tech companies, Yahoo Inc., Charles Schwab Corp., and E-Trade Group Inc. had the most women in top positions. High-tech firms assessed by the researchers had a slightly better record than others, with 20 percent of key executives being female.

Survival Skills

Attention, help-desk workers. You think you've got it bad?

Just listen to Beck Weathers's story. Weathers, who nearly died during a terrifying storm on Mount Everest, lost his right hand and his nose to frostbite in the course of the climbing disaster. His plight was chronicled in the popular 1997 book "Into Thin Air."

Now Weathers is set to impart workplace survival lessons to techies gathered for the Help Desk Institute's annual conference, starting today in New Orleans. Sorta makes those e-mail questions from ditsy co-workers pale in comparison, huh?

Weathers fills the shoes of one Richard Hatch, the conniving corporate trainer who won $1 million on "Survivor" on CBS last year. According to the Help Desk Institute's Web site, Hatch was forced to cancel his appearance "due to prior contractual obligations with the network."

Send tips, gripes and your impressions on punching the virtual time clock to Carrie Johnson at johnsonca@washpost.com.

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