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Arkansas Women's Forum boasts influential executives.

ONE OF THE STATE'S LEAST-known corridors of power is made up of some of Arkansas' best-known business minds.

The Arkansas Women's Forum, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is a statewide executive leadership and networking group based in Little Rock. An affiliate of the International Women's Forum, AWF doesn't raise money or seek publicity. It does not lobby government, espouse political agendas or champion causes.

Members such as Linda Dillman, executive vice president and chief information officer at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, said AWF's power is in its talent pool, which serves as a conduit for professional development. Through companies and organizations such as Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods Inc., Heifer International and Stephens Inc., the decisions AWF's members make affect tens of thousands of Arkansans and even the global economy. For evidence, see the complete 53-member roster on Page 17.

They get together several times a year and re-energize each other through powwows about business, leadership and life. It's like the "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" of Arkansas boardrooms.

Dillman said although business leaders often do volunteer work and get involved in their communities, they've typically been called to contribute time, energy or resources. AWF, she said, is self-infusing.

Fortune magazine named Dillman one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" on Nov. 1.

It was the third straight year that Dillman made the list, coming in at No. 29 last year and this year.

"When I joined the Arkansas Women's Forum, I did it for me," Dillman said. "I may have a lot of contact with CIOs and others in retail, but to be able to learn from women who have pioneered medical research, been innovators in education or leaders in nonprofits is incredible.

"Sometimes, as senior leaders, we talk about how there's not really very many places where you can go and be in a position to both give and receive. I get a whole beck of a lot out of this group."

Betty Tucker, AWF's president, is the director of development of the Myeloma Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and, as wife of Jim Guy Tucker, is the former First Lady of Arkansas. She said it wasn't AWF's intention to become elitists. A group of founding members simply decided to quietly focus on making the organization a catalyst for camaraderie and professional growth.

"The essence of the group is women empowering and nurturing other women," Tucker said. "It's just a wonderful opportunity to meet women from all over Arkansas and put our heads together and think about where we as women and leaders need to go."

The History

According to its Web site, the International Women's Forum was founded in 1982 and now reaches five continents, 21 nations and 60 affiliated forum locations such as Arkansas'. There are more than 3,800 members from the Middle East to middle America.

Tucker said AWF has never been larger The group has grown about 70 percent from only 30 members in the last few years.

Nearly 17 percent of its members are in law and politics, but AWF represents a diverse group of sectors and talents. About 70 percent of its members are from Little Rock, and the largest other concentration is in northwest Arkansas, where there are six.

Two of the group's members have died: Johnnie Holcomb, who worked in investment banking at Stephens Inc., and Betsy Blass, who died in late October. Blass was a well-known philanthropist in Little Rock.

Don't Call Us

No one joins AWF. It calls you.

Tucker said AWF doesn't cap its membership per se. But between the handful of additions selected each year, and older participants gradually taking their memberships "inactive," the annual net growth is typically only a few people.

AWF's nominating committee adheres to IWF guidelines. It looks for women who are directly responsible for policymaking decisions in their organizations.

Diane Alderson of El Dorado said nominees should be at the top of their fields. Alderson is a longtime philanthropist and was only the second female University of Arkansas trustee when she served from 1972-1984.

"I imagine we're very much what it used to be like in the old Victorian smoking parlor where the men went and talked," Alderson said. "Our gatherings are about the only time we don't have to be responsive to someone else."

Rebecca Garner, president and chief investment officer of Garrison Asset Management in Fayetteville, is the incoming president for 2006-07. She describes AWF's value to prospective members this way:

"I say, 'How often do you go into a room or meeting where whatever energy is in the room is what you created?' For these women, it's usually every time. That's draining, and sometimes you just get all the energy sucked out of you. This group breathes it back in."

Nominations are made in the spring and put to a vote in June or July. Selections require a nomination and a second, typically by someone in the nominee's region.

AWF meets as many as eight times per year, but members are only required to attend two of those meetings. Garner said most of the time is spent sharing ideas.

"There's no secret handshake or anything," Garner said. "We're all so old that we'd forget it anyway."

The Room

AWF members get passionate talking about their group. Jo Luck, president and CEO of Heifer International, demonstrated her zeal for AWF during the first week of November.

Even after an exhausting 16-hour plane trip home from Geneva, Switzerland, Luck made time to return a call about AWF.

"When you put so many dynamic leaders and accomplished people in the room together, it raises the entire level of IQ, the skills, the compassion and commitment to making a difference, not just in our state and country but in the world," Luck said. "Our members are not just interested in Arkansas, but in global issues."

Heifer International sponsored AWF's anniversary event Nov. 4-5 at The Peabody in Little Rock. The weekend included tours of the Clinton Presidential Library and Heifer International.

Luck and inactive member Betty Bumpers, the founder of Peace Links and wife of former governor and U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, have received IWF awards for being "women who've made a difference."

Vicki Stephens is president of C.C. Jones Trucking Inc. and the first woman in the 72-year history of the Arkansas Trucking Association to serve as its chairman.

She said it's a thrill to be part of a group that is Arkansas history.

"I'm used to being the minority in the room, and that's really what we share at AWF," Stephens said. "We all understand the unspoken stuff. Women leaders have to maintain a persona, but in that room, we're all the same."

JEFFREY WOOD

jwood@nwabj.com
The Arkansas Women's Forum

The following is an alphabetical roster of members of the Arkansas
Women's Forum, a statewide leadership and networking organization
based in Little Rock:

Name
Title City Affiliation

Diane Gunn Alderson * El Dorado The Rocking "A" Ranch
managing partner

Sharon Allen Little Rock Arkansas Blue Cross
president & CEO & Blue Shield

Susan Davis Allen Jonesboro Arkansas State
vice chancellor for research University
and academic affairs

Kay Kelley Arnold Little Rock Entergy Services Inc.
vice president, public
affairs

Margaret Bogle Little Rock USDA Agri Research
executive director Service's LMDNIRI
 division **

Diane Bray Little Rock SEA Tropics Inc.
president

Bettye Caldwell ([dagger]) Little Rock UALR/UAMS
distinguished professor
emeritus/professor emeritus

Mary Ann Campbell Little Rock Money Magic Inc.
president

Janet Cathey Little Rock Little Rock Gynecology
doctor Associates

Sandra Wilson Cherry Little Rock U.S. Attorney's office
first assistant U.S.
attorney

Hillary Clinton Washington, U.S. Senate
([dagger][dagger]) D.C.
New York senator

Frances Cranford Little Rock philanthropy
philanthropist

Nancy DeLamar Little Rock South Central Division-
director of external affairs The Nature Conservancy

Betty Dickey Little Rock Arkansas State Supreme
associate justice Court

Linda Dillman Bentonville Wal-Mar Stores Inc.
executive vice president,
chief information officer

Martha Dixon Arkadelphia Dixon Manufacturing Inc.
president

Jeri Dunn Springdale Tyson Foods Inc.
senior vice president, chief
information officer

Joyce Elliott Little Rock Arkansas State House
state representative of Representatives

Olivia Farrell Little Rock Arkansas Business
chairman & CEO Publishing Group Inc.

Barbara Finley Fordyce Fordyce Chamber of
executive director Commerce

Jimmy Lou Fisher ([dagger]) Little Rock State of Arkansas
retired state treasurer,
gubernatorial candidate

Karen Flake Little Rock Flake, Wilkerson Market
chairman & CEO Insights

Rebecca Garner Fayetteville Garrison Asset
president, chief investment officer Management

Shelia Gomez Little Rock Catholic Charities
director

Mary Good Little Rock UALR College of
dean Information Science &
 Systems Engineering

Sue Griffin Little Rock UAMS, Reynolds Center of
professor Aging

Ruth Hawkins Jonesboro Arkansas State
director of Delta heritage University
initiatives

Stacy Hurst Little Rock City of Little Rock
city director

Sun Lee Little Rock American Taekwondo
chairman Association

Blanche Lincoln (#) Washington, U.S. Senate
U.S. senator D.C.

Betty Lower ([dagger]) Little Rock Arkansas Children's
emeritus medical director/ Hospital/UAMS
associate dean emeritus

Jo Luck Little Rock Heifer International
president & CEO Inc.

Diane Mackey (##) Little Rock UAMS College of Public
assistant dean for Health
organizational and
institutional affairs

Margaret McEntire Little Rock Candy Bouquet
president International

Elise Mitchell ([section]) Fayetteville Mitchell Communications
president Group Inc.

Roberta Monson Little Rock UAMS
associate dean

Beverly Morrow Pine Bluff TLM Management
owner

Maria Johnson Norris Little Rock Aristotle Inc.
CEO

Annett Pagan Little Rock Winrock International
managing director-U.S.
programs

Becky Paneitz Bentonville NorthWest Arkansas
president Community College

Nan Plummer Little Rock Arkansas Arts Center
director

Linus Raines ([subsection] Little Rock Green Stamp America Inc.
director of business
development

Janet M. Roderick Little Rock UALR Arkansas Small
executive director Business Development
 Center

Mary Gay Shipley Blytheville That Bookstore in
owner Blytheville

Dana Silaski Little Rock Stephens Inc.
managing director

Esther Silver-Parker Bentonville Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
vice president of diversity
relations

Liz Smith Blytheville Blytheville/Gosnell Area
executive director Chamber of Commerce

Vicki Stephens North Little C.C. Jones Trucking Inc.
president Rock

Stephanie Streett Little Rock William J. Clinton
executive director Foundation

Betty Tucker Little Rock Myeloma Institute, UAMS
director of development

Millie Ward Little Rock Stone Ward
president

Jennifer Wilson-Harvey Little Rock Wilson and Associates
chief operating officer

Susan Webber Wright Little Rock U.S. District Court,
chief justice Eastern District

Notes: USDA--United States Department of Agriculture. UALR--University
of Arkansas at Little Rock. UAMS--University of Arkansas for Medical
Sciences. * Business located in Santa Fe, N.M. ** The Lower
Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative.
([dagger]) Retired. ([dagger][dagger]) Member emeritus. (#) Home
office is in Little Rock. (##) Also director of the JD/MPH dual
degree program through UALR's William Bowen School of Law.
([section]) Also co-owner of Exective Communication Consultants LLC
of Fayetteville. ([subsection]) Business located in New York, N.Y.

Source: The Arkansas Women's Forum
COPYRIGHT 2005 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Wood, Jeffrey
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Dec 5, 2005
Words:1790
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