10 Pioneering Women Who Came to Life in the Pages of Adweek

Including legendary names in advertising, publishing and TV, and the voice of Bart Simpson

Mia Hamm, Grace Mirabella and Linda Yaccarino
(L. to r.) Mia Hamm appeared in Adweek in 2005; Grace Mirabella was an Adweek “Newsmaker” in May 1989; and Linda Yaccarino has been a regular in our pages. Hamm: Getty Images; Mirabella: Richard Gummere — NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images; Yaccarino: Chris Loupos for Adweek
Headshot of Robert Klara

Advertising—perhaps business, period—has historically been a fraternity house and, well, to a great degree it still is. But while women have finally begun getting a well-earned spotlight in recent years, Adweek was on the lookout for female talent from the start. We might not have written about as many influential women as we should have, but we spotted more than a few. Below are 10 of them.

Print and television executive Carolyn Wall appeared in our pages in May 1981, just after taking the helm of the Advertising Women of New York. “Her election to the presidency is a reflection of the high esteem in which she is held by the advertising industry,” we said. Three years later, Wall would become the publisher of Adweek.

Adweek profiled Lois Wyse of Wyse Advertising in its March 8, 1982, issue, just after her fourth novel went to press. “How,” we wondered, “does she account for her prodigious literary output while running and co-owning a major agency and sitting on two corporate boards?”

In 1988, when Louise McNamee assumed the presidency of the agency started by legendary adman Jerry Della Femina, Adweek named her Woman of the Year. McNamee had been a schoolteacher before getting into advertising in 1970, quickly demonstrating a talent for luring new clients. McNamee helped build the shop into the 18th-largest agency in America. “I know this agency is often perceived as a one-man show from the outside,” Della Femina told us. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Agency pioneer Jane Maas made more than one appearance in these pages, but the most memorable was in August 1989, when she fessed up about the impossible job of directing advertising for the late “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley. “Whenever I happen to mention that for seven months I ran my own agency, strangers look at me with respect,” Maas told us. “When I tell them the firm opened its doors with Leona Helmsley … their expressions change to amazement.”

Photo: Robert Simko

Publishing legend Grace Mirabella, who tripled the circulation of Vogue during her tenure as editor in chief was an Adweek “Newsmaker” in May 1989, when a new fashion magazine bearing her name hit the stands. The new title, we wrote, provides “a glimpse of her own passions, no-nonsense style and sophistication.”

In 1992, Charlotte Beers (“the most powerful woman in advertising”) was our April 6 cover feature. Beers had just quit as CEO of Tatham RSCG and was said to be writing her ticket to her next post. “Beers represents the next generation of female leaders,” we wrote, “managers who have been able to rise within the system, developing the kind of institutional experience and skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly global business.”

Nancy Cartwright’s face might not be famous, but her voice sure is. When we caught up with her in 2005, Cartwright was 18 years into her tenure as the voice of Bart Simpson, and when she wasn’t doing that, she was running her own animation company. The writing for The Simpsons is legendary, but we asked Cartwright if she had come up with any famous Bart lines herself. She had: “Eat my shorts!”

When she appeared in our pages in December 2005, soccer great Mia Hamm was slowly stepping into retirement. Why were we interested? Hamm had become an endorser extraordinaire for the likes of Gatorade, Nike and the Vitamin Shoppe. We asked her what she learned about the advertising business since joining it. “There’s a lot of work that goes into [it],” she said.

Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s high-profile chairman, advertising and client partnerships, has been a regular subject for Adweek. In a 2013 profile, we noted: “No other media company offers the sort of holistic approach to aligning clients and platforms that Yaccarino has devised for NBCU.”

Not surprisingly, Sheryl Sandberg’s name popped up a lot in the news and feature pages of Adweek, mostly in connection to her decisions regarding the direction of Facebook. But in June 2014, Sandberg weighed in in an editorial about something more important: the dearth of women leaders and the harm of gender stereotyping. “Men and women should be equally represented at the boardroom table and the kitchen table,” Sandberg said. “To get there, we need to reform our institutional and governmental policies on everything from parental leave to flextime. We need affordable childcare. We need to encourage women to pursue their ambitions and negotiate for themselves along the way.”

Check out the rest of Adweek’s 40th anniversary coverage:

This story first appeared in the Dec. 9, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.
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