The United States has a secret economic weapon, Kate Rand Lloyd told an audience of women at the University of Utah Tuesday night. That weapon is women.

"Of course other countries have women, too," she said. "But the U.S. is one of the least chauvinistic countries in the world. This country is young enough, imaginative enough and fair enough to use a terrific resource and use it productively."Lloyd is editor-at-large of Working Woman magazine and former editor of Vogue and Glamour. She spoke at the "Spirit of American Woman" seminar on the subject of how women can succeed in the '90s. It was the kickoff for a scholarship competition, sponsored by J.C. Penney, to help a Utah woman reach her long-range career goals.

In 1950, Lloyd said, there were 17 million women in the American work force. In 1977, when she became editor of Working Woman, there were 37 million women working outside the home. Today 56 million women are in the work force.

And more women are coming, she said. In the next decade 65 percent of all those who enter the work force will be women. "We are badly needed, and wanted, and have more power than ever before."

Making the career change from Vogue to Working Woman was like getting off the Queen Elizabeth II to ride in a rowboat, Lloyd said. "But it was the best career decision I ever made."

She could have been comfortable as Vogue's managing editor for the rest of her life, she said. Yet it was no challenge to read copy and sign other people's petty cash slips.

"I decided I was ambitious and competitive."

As editor, Lloyd took Working Woman from its struggling youth to a solid maturity with more than a million subscribers, whose average earnings are higher than the readers of any other women's magazine.

Lloyd became a traveling editor-at-large in the mid-'80s. The magazine's current editor, Kate White, has a wry tone that points up how far women have come in the business world, Lloyd says. "In the old days we had to be supportive, positive." Women were dumped on enough by the rest of society, she explained. "But now we've had failures and come out laughing.

"Now if a woman is a nerd, we can say so. It's kind of refreshing."

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10 ideas for next 10 years

Kate Rand Lloyd offers 10 ideas on how to take advantage of the coming decade:

1. Think money. "Plan for your retirement," she said. "The average age of widowhood is 56. Only 10 percent of widows ever collect on their husbands' pensions. The average widow gets only $5,600 a year in Social Security.

2. Accept change.

3. Define the difference between being unkind and looking out for your own interest in an enlightened way. Even people you love will ask too much of you, she said.

4. Learn to say "No" but not to hear it.

5. Ask questions. "Don't assume," Lloyd said. "You may be doing more than you have to do."

6. Stay fit.

7. Trust yourself above anyone else. "Your decisions, even when they are bad, are as valid as anyone's."

8. Network. "With each other, with men, with children, and especially with women who aren't currently working outside the home."

9. Volunteer. A new study shows what common sense has always told us, Lloyd said, that we are healthier and happier when we help others.

10. Keep your sense of humor. "No one can make you feel bad or guilty when you are laughing."