Landing a job as publisher: a 10-year sprint to the top

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

``If I could invent my day,'' says Anne Sutherland Fuchs, ``and create whatever I wanted to do -- I'm doing it. Since the Woman's Day announcement, I wake up at the crack of dawn because I'm so excited.'' The announcement she is referring to came in late January, when Ms. Sutherland was named publisher of Woman's Day magazine -- the first woman to hold this top position on one of the country's major publications.

That's right, the first. Not the first woman editor -- this key post has been filled by such well-known females as the late Betsy Blackwell of Mademoiselle, Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmopolitan, and Woman's Day's own Ellen R. Levine. While the editor is in charge of editorial content, the publisher of a magazine is responsible for its business management, for profit and loss -- in Ms. Sutherland's words, for ``the bottom line.''

At her desk between two walls of windows in her corner office high above Times Square, Ms. Sutherland looks sleek, attractive, and relaxed -- more like someone who has been managing magazines for years than like a ``new kid on the block.'' She fairly glows with confidence and enthusiasm for her new job.

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``What's very nice about having a P&L [profit and loss] responsibility -- and this is my fifth P&L responsibility -- is that I get a grade every month. There's no argument about how I do. I get a grade so people know what I've done. My performance can be measured.''

Ms. Sutherland's ``grade'' in her new job will take the form of a magazine that is bought by 7 million American women 17 times a year -- a statistic of which she is very proud. Since Woman's Day has very few actual subscribers, 17 times a year women must make the decision to purchase it. The fact that 7 million do so with consistency, she feels, testifies to the quality of the product she is responsible for.

``I very much like the thrill of seeing somebody and knowing that this magazine goes into their home,'' she says, ``that they spend so much time with it, and that we're helping them in their lives.''

Perhaps even more unusual than the gender factor is the speed with which Ms. Sutherland has risen to the top in a very competitive field. Her entire professional life, in fact, spans slightly more than 10 years since her first job with Hertz Rent-A-Car in 1974.

Born in Brazil to an English mother and an American father, Ms. Sutherland grew up in Chicago and attended New York University. ``I assumed that I would be married and have a family,'' she says, ``and I didn't really think about a career.'' Then, after she was married, ``I was a housewife with a pretty glamorous life -- living in different places in the world, entertaining, and making a lot of hors d'oeuvres.''

When that part of her life came to an end, Ms. Sutherland moved to New York and started looking for work. Her visible ammunition for storming the job market? A degree in French literature, an interest in art history, and some experience as a docent at the Chicago Art Institute.

``I answered an ad in the New York Times to be an art gallery director,'' she recalls with some amusement. ``I went to the personnel agency and they said, `No, no, no. You're perfect for Hertz Rent-A-Car.' I said, `Great. . . .' So I went to work for Hertz in the car-leasing division.

``This was not long-range planning, and yet they couldn't have invented a better way to gain exposure to every kind of industry imaginable, and always at very high levels, because what we sold was car-leasing plans to corporations. I started as an assistant, went into sales very quickly, and then became the top person in the country, and the only woman in the industry. I was quite visible.''

How did she adjust to the radical switch from domestic to business responsibilities?

``After three years in solving some personal dilemmas, I realized, `This isn't so bad. Maybe I want to work for a living.' And I was surprised how well I was doing. It was survival, and my Midwestern work ethic. And that sense of survival has never stopped. It began workaholic tendencies that have kept on.''

Having decided that a career was what she wanted, and that publishing was her chosen field (``I'm a reader, not a viewer,'' she explains), Ms. Sutherland moved to the New York Times in 1977 as manager of the paper's national food department.

``Having been such a star at Hertz, I didn't realize what I didn't know,'' she recalls. ``I didn't know anything about advertising, but I did know sales.''

What she didn't know about advertising she soon learned, and the success of her stint at the Times led to an offer from a promotional insert company that she was tempted to accept. Instead, though, she ``made a career move, not a money move,'' to the Charter Corporation, publishers of Ladies' Home Journal and Redbook, as manager of its demographic edition. Although she didn't know it at the time, this experience provided a foretaste of her present position.

``They created a new division in 1979 and made me publisher. In my perverted way I saw this as running a mini-magazine. And I learned a lot.

``After Redbook I came to CBS [Woman's Day's parent company] as vice-president and publisher in the Woman's Day special-interest group -- a fascinating job, as it involved a great deal more circulation challenges than anything I had done before. Then CBS acquired Cuisine magazine in April '82, and I became publisher in June '82 and ran that until we sold it last October.''

In January of this year came the move to Woman's Day, with total responsibility for its business side. And what would she say is the key factor in her success?

``Sometimes people say, `Isn't it easy for her, or him? Look at her, she's attractive, or he's articulate, and it's just a snap.' ''

But Ms. Sutherland shakes her head ruefully. ``Do you know what star quality is? Star quality means you do the presentations five times on Sunday, and Monday it looks like a snap. It's just plain hard work. You've gotta be willing to make the sacrifices to get to your goal, because it takes big sacrifices to get there. It's not easy. It's hard work.''

And where does being a woman fit into her career? Has she had to fight male chauvinism along the way?

``There are advantages and disadvantages to being female. I've found it easier to fight a battle, not the war. What I was able to do was put my blinders on and put my head down and do the work, and pretty soon the Indians go away. It may have been there, but I've never felt prejudice.''

Despite such an impressive career, however, work is by no means the sum total of Anne Sutherland's life. Three years ago she married former Olympian track star Jim Fuchs, now president of Fuchs Cuthrell & Co., the ``Rolls-Royce'' of outplacement firms. Mr. Fuchs has five grown daughters by a former marriage, and nothing but enthusiasm for his wife's professional success.

``Jim is the greatest support I have,'' says Ms. Sutherland. ``He passes around [Woman's Day] covers at lunchtime. He passes out press releases. He is fabulous, and it's because he's so secure within himself. He's a very confident man who truly wishes me well and shows it. There's no competition.

``What's very nice is, we really have separate lives during the day. I go off very early in the morning, and we rarely talk during the day. Then I go home at night and very much enjoy -- I enjoy running something during the day, but I don't enjoy running my private life. It's not that he does, either. We do.''

In addition to their demanding careers, both Ms. Sutherland and her husband are involved in charity work: She is president of the women's board of the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, and he is on the men's board. And they both enjoy all the social and cultural delights of living in New York.

``We like going around and being very active in New York -- we kind of thrive on that frenzy. Jim likes to go out eight nights a week; I like to go out six nights a week, so we settled on seven.''

In the light of her own success, how does Anne Sutherland see the prospects of women today, in contrast to a few years ago?

``Today women have realized they don't want to be liberated as men. They want to be liberated as women. Traditional values have never been more valuable. Marriage is up. Babies are up. School and educational values are up. Fashions have never been more feminine. Women don't have to wear shirts and ties to the office and look like men. We can look like women.

``What's very nice for me is to have a combination of lives. I have the opportunity to run something as exciting as Woman's Day, but I also have a very happy private life. Women -- like men -- have understood over the last number of years that with all of the exciting things that have happened for us, and all the things that we strive for, we still want a happy private life. We want a full life just like men do.''

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