Patricia H. Troy has just about recovered from helping stage the Association for Women in Communications' annual conference - held this year in Baltimore.
The boxes in her Severna Park office are finally unpacked from the event earlier this month, which drew 250 people and featured a speech by former White House correspondent Helen Thomas. Troy has since returned from three days at a spa in West Virginia where she went to unwind.
Troy, 56, is executive director of the worldwide association, which has members such as Barbara Walters and Thomas. The organization promotes the advancement of women in communications fields. When Troy took over the organization in 1996, she moved its headquarters to Severna Park, where she lives.
Seven full-time employees help run the nonprofit association, which has more than 7,500 members - about 5 percent of whom are men.
"Whether it be in print or radio or television or the Internet, I really think that [women] have just become so much more prominent in terms of numbers than years ago," said Troy, who has been a member of the association since 1990. "Certainly the quality was there years ago. Now we have a number of younger people entering the profession."
That's a change from when the association was founded in 1909 by seven female journalism students. It began as Theta Sigma Phi, an honorary journalism sorority at the University of Washington.
`Weather girls' to reporters
Troy called the women in the association's early years pioneers who blazed the trail for women to grow from "weather girls" and "girl reporters" to serious journalists. But there are still challenges to overcome - such as salary disparities, she said.
The association has more than 100 professional and student chapters around the world, including one in Annapolis and another starting up in Baltimore. It has held conferences all over the nation, including Austin, Texas; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Philadelphia and Chicago. Next year's conference will be in Denver.
"Even after all these years, women still have an organization that they can turn to, to network, to gain more knowledge, to develop leadership skills, to help them prepare them for senior-level positions," said Lynn Osborne, chairwoman of the association's board of directors.
A stellar career
At the Baltimore conference, Thomas, United Press International's longtime White House correspondent, received the Chair's First Women in Communication Award. She was the National Press Club's first female officer after the club opened its membership to women in 1971. In 1975, she became the first female member of the Gridiron Club and became its president in 1993.
"You can think back to those folks who have been working over the last 20 years, they can remember days when career opportunities were limited for women," said Betty Parker Ellis, secretary of the association's board of directors. "And that's why people like Helen Thomas send chills up and down my spine because I can't imagine the challenges she faced when she started."
What makes the association stand out, Troy said, is that it crosses all communication disciplines. She's especially proud that by 1999 the association had taken advantage of the Internet, posting its directory, newsletters and other items on its Web site, www.womcom.org. She hopes to use the Internet to recruit members worldwide.
"We are getting a lot of inquiries [on the Web site] from all over the world," she said. "We think that what we have to say is very compelling, particularly with anything having to do with information for freedom of information and gender equity."
The association is one of five organizations Troy runs out of a small office off Ritchie Highway.
"She has boundless energy," Osborne said. "She's constantly thinking of new and better ways to do things."
Far from `low-key'
Troy, who has lived in Anne Arundel County since 1976, started her first company in 1989, Bay Media Inc., a publications management firm. She said she founded it thinking it would be a "low-key" organization. But soon, she said, "one thing led to another."
Last year she founded Next Wave Group LLC, which manages the three groups for which Troy is executive director - the Association for Women in Communications; the Matrix Foundation, the association's charitable arm; and Entrepreneur's Exchange, a local organization that supports small-business owners.
The walls of Troy's office and the outside hallways are covered with her awards - one of the Daily Record's Top 100 Maryland Women for 1997, 1999 and 2001; Business Leader of the Year for Anne Arundel's Trade Council; Service Above Self Award from the Severna Park Rotary Club.
"I wasn't going to put any awards on my wall when I started, but people asked me, `Don't you have any awards?'" she said. "But I'd probably be more comfortable with artwork."