The newly formed Association of Female Exhibit Managers and Convention Organizers (AFEMCO) will hold its first educational conference December 1 at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center, one day prior to the annual meeting of the International Association for Exposition Management (IAEM) at the same facility.

IAEM invited AFEMCO to collaborate on meeting dates, location, and promotion. "We wanted to assist a new organization that is in its formative stages," says Steven Hacker, IAEM president.

"We think it is a terrific opportunity," says Maria Brennan, AFEMCO's executive director. "It will give our members a chance to meet in an established arena."

Themed "Breaking Ground," the meeting will feature sessions on workplace management skills and how to balance family and career responsibilities. Inspiration is a strong conference theme: Keynoter Heather Whitestone, the first Miss America with an acknowledged disability, will talk about overcoming tough obstacles to achieve one's dreams, and in general sessions five top industry achievers will share their strategies for success. Attendees will be able to earn continuing education units.

AFEMCO, based in Bethesda, MD, was founded in January to provide women in the convention and exhibition industry with networking and educational opportunities. The 150-member organization also has a "pretty aggressive lobbying arm on Capitol Hill," Brennan says, adding that the group is working on its legislative agenda--an agenda that exemplifies the need for a group that pushes women's interests. A recent member survey showed that one of members' top concerns is equal pay for equal work. Not surprising, says Brennan, for a field in which various surveys have found that women earn 28 to 42 percent less than their male counterparts.

Although initially some in the industry were threatened by the formation of a women's association, the collaboration with IAEM indicates that the organization is now receiving support. "We've gotten a lot of positive feedback in the industry," Brennan says, adding that both men and women have joined.

"AFEMCO is intended to enhance what other associations are offering," she clarifies, "not to replace them." For more information on the conference, contact AFEMCO at (301) 656-6023,or at its Web address: www.afemco.com.