New York’s “Women in Business” Week with Phyllis Yvonne Reed

On September 28, 1977, an exposition began in New York at (based at the Statler-Hilton Hotel) that focused on supporting and celebrating women in business. The event was coordinated by Diana Silcox, who stated that the exposition was intended “to reach executive women in the New York community, to encourage cooperation, impart information and enrich the city’s economy.” While this may not seem irregular by today’s standards, the “Women in Business Week” is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States. It offered female business owners the chance to network in a time when that support for women in business was lacking. The “Women in Business Week” was sponsored by the New York Association of Women Business Owners, which is an organization that continues to sponsor and promote events to this day. NAWBO works to support women-owned businesses and businesswomen financially, medically, and legally.

The five-day-long exhibition was organized around a luncheon each day featuring a speaker. The cost of attending the luncheon also covered seminars and workshops on 35 different topics held around New York City. Tours and films were also a part of the exhibition.

At the Statler-Hilton Hotel, booths were set up that featured goods and services for companies of all sizes, giving women and business representatives to mingle and network. Businesses promoted their goods and services to potential customers. Several larger businesses sent representatives to attend and scout the exhibition, including the Sears Foundation, Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and Pfizer Inc.

One of the business-owning attendees and speakers was Phyllis Yvonne Reed. As president of Dalmatian Enterprises, Inc., one of the first black-owned advertising agencies, Reed presented “Women in Business Making It in New York.” The featured button was a promotional item from the exhibition that promoted Reed’s presentation, beliefs, and business all in one.

Phyllis Reed stated, “What we hope to accomplish is to stimulate all factions of our society to open the door to opportunity and progress. Business ownership is but one alternative and more and more women are quickly coming to realize that it can be a positive alternative if adequate capital, management and marketing techniques are utilized.” While progressive for the time, Reed claimed that “the time is right for this event to take place” – a nod of encouragement toward the changing of societal expectations of women in business that would grow to become the new norm.

​Later in her life, Reed joined the Kingsbridge Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association and the Northwest Bronx Community and ​Clergy Coalition. Beginning in 2005, one of the last major projects that she worked on was transforming the Kingsbridge Armory that had been abandoned since 1994 into a community garden called the Kingsbridge Armory International Village Garden. Reed later said that she “wanted to do something more immediate” with the area, which is what pushed her to begin her work on the garden. Although the community worked toward transforming the area into a garden, the following year, filming for the film I Am Legend starring Will Smith began in the Armory. Despite Reed’s aspirations for the area as a garden, it is at least not abandoned.

After a 13 year battle with cancer, Phyllis Reed passed away at 66 years old on August 31, 2009. In 2011, Reed was honored with the naming of the intersection of Davidson Avenue and West Kingsbridge Road. The Phyllis Yvonne Reed Plaza street sign was unveiled to the community on February 18, 2011 at 12:30pm by NYC Council Member Fernando Cabrera. The honor recognized Reed as not only an influential businesswoman but also as a Bronx activist who worked and cared for her community until the end.

(2011, February 25). A street named inspiration. Norwood News.
(2009, November 19). Armory angel leaves legacy of involvement. Norwood News.
Boogiedowner. (2011, February 18). NYC council member Fernando Cabrera to unveil street sign in honor of community activist [Web log post]. Retrieved from…
Boogiedowner. (2011, February 18). Tribute to Phyllis Reed: Long time Bronx community activist [Web log post]. Retrieved from…
Cook, L. (1977, October 3). Women in the marketplace. Asbury Park Press, pp. 11.
Klemesrud, J. (1977, September 25). A week for women in business. New York Times, pp. 58. 
Sumler, S. S. (2006, December). The Kingsbridge armory is going Hollywood. The Bronx Journal.

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