Association For Women In Communications
In 1909 at the University of Washington in Seattle, seven female students who were enrolled in the country's second academically accredited journalism program decided to establish a women's journalism society. These students–Georgina MacDougall, Helen Ross, Blanche Brace, Rachel Marshall, Olive Mauermann, Helen Graves, and Irene Somerville–founded Theta Sigma Phi, which became the Association for Women in Communications in 1996, and also began the publication of a special women's edition of the university newspaper, The Pacific Daily Wave.
In 1918 Theta Sigma Phi held its first national convention at the University of Kansas. After the convention, alumnae started professional chapters in Kansas City, Des Moines, and Indianapolis.
Despite the fact that women gained the right to vote in 1920, many editors relegated women to composing society pages, not allowing them to cover "hard news." In a 1931 issue of the Matrix, the society's quarterly journal, Ruby Black, the Theta Sigma Phi national president and the first manager of an employment bureau for members, noted that female journalists could not get reporting jobs at the same pay as similarly qualified males.
Inaugurating the Headliner Awards in 1939, the society honored Eleanor Roosevelt for her efforts to aid female communicators by closing her news conferences to male reporters. Mrs. Roosevelt also contributed several articles to the Matrix. During the 1950s and 1960s there were over forty-seven campus chapters and twenty-nine professional chapters, with the national headquarters in Austin, Texas.
WICI and AWC
In 1973, during the national convention, Theta Sigma Phi delegates voted to change the name of the organization to Women in Communications, Inc. (WICI). Calling for institutions of higher learning to place more emphasis on affirmative action, to create more positions for female journalism professors, and to remove the discriminatory practices that impeded academic advancement, WICI members joined the national Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) coalition to fight the mounting opposition to the ERA. Accenting the need to promote professional excellence, WICI also created an awards program, which grew into the prestigious and highly competitive Clarion Awards.
In order to monitor legislation, national headquarters were moved closer to Washington, D.C. in 1988. Then, in the fall of 1996, the organization was again renamed–as the Association for Women in Communications (AWC). Increasing its influence on the professional growth of students in the communication fields, AWC moved into an alliance with the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). This resulted in AWC's participation in the development of course offerings and requirements for institutions of higher learning.
Mission and Organization
The AWC mission is to "champion the advancement of women across all communications disciplines by recognizing excellence, promoting leadership, and positioning its members at the forefront of the evolving communications era." By 2001 AWC had fully developed an electronic communication network through the Internet. The AWC website includes several online services, including a membership directory, job bank, listserves, the monthly newsletter Intercom, the Matrix, and an interactive membership response survey system.
Approaching its hundredth birthday, AWC had a membership of about 10,000 in 2001. Its professional awards include the Clarion Award, the International Matrix Award, the Headliner Award, the Rising Star Award, the Georgina MacDougall Davis Award, the AWC Champion Award, the Chair's First Women in Communications Award, the Chapter Recognition Program, the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Ruth Wyand Awards. Furthermore, AWC has affirmed its long-standing commitment to education with the Matrix Foundation, which provides scholarships and supports educational research and publications.
AWC members range in age from eighteen through ninety-plus. The average age is forty-one, with most members living in urban or suburban settings in the United States and abroad. About 95 percent are college graduates, with about 47 percent holding advanced graduate degrees or involved in graduate study. Disciplines represented within the AWC membership include print and broadcast journalism, television and radio production, film, advertising, public relations, marketing, graphic design, multi-media design, photography, and related areas. A national conference is held annually, with featured guests and honorees representing a range of professions.
ASSOCIATION FOR WOMEN IN COMMUNICATIONS. 2001. <www.womcom.org>.
MARY KAY SWITZER
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