WCA Annual Update & 2021-22 Preview

by Andrea Exter, WCA 2020-21 president 

On March 24, 2021 we held WCA’s annual meeting virtually. Thank you to all of our members who joined us. Now, in our 92nd year, as we strive to grow as an organization, it’s important to us to update you on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. 

WCA Brief History 

WCA has had many names, but its essence has been the same since it began in 1929. A group of female UT journalism students formed the organization you see today, in large part to combat the hostility against “women in men’s jobs” in the post-WWI economic slump. Many editors had relegated women to society pages instead of “hard news.”

They banded together…

  • to promote the advancement of women in all fields of communications;
  • to work for the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of communicators;
  • to recognize distinguished professional achievements; and 
  • to promote high professional standards throughout the communications industry. 

This purpose is still enshrined in our bylaws, which you can read on the About page of our website; there you can also view an inspiring video with more about the trailblazing women who helped launch this organization. At its peak, the national Association for Women in Communications organization had over 50 chapters across the nation and 13,000 members. However, in March 2013, leaders of the Austin chapter felt members would best be served by an independent organization; the affiliation between the Austin chapter and the national organization of AWC was discontinued, and Women Communicators of Austin (WCA) was born. 

2020-21 Overview
  • Today, WCA is an all-volunteer organization of 259 current members, up 8% with increased participation and engagement since this time in 2019.
  • Banner Brunch was unfortunately canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. But, the 2020 Banner awards were given and received with grace, safety, and video panache
  • We offered nine real-time, virtual WCA@Lunch and Leader Lunch programs to more than 211 attendees in the first eight programs, with our April program still to come. We provided these at a low cost while securing $1,715 in WCA operational funds and $435 for the Jo Caldwell Meyer Scholarship. Registration donations brought in $1,000+ for philanthropy—thank you to all who donated!
    • Offering our programs virtually, but in real time brought value during this year in which we sought camaraderie within the constraints of Zoom. We saw incredible vulnerability and depth from our speakers. Recordings of our Lunch programs were not offered and I believe the real, raw connections made were a direct result of this choice. 
    • We also offered an “inclusive” code to anyone for whom cost was a barrier and invited them to join us at no cost.
  • WCA’s first-ever Virtual Get Smart engaged 90 attendees for a live-streamed, half-day professional development conference in October. It was a net-positive event for WCA in every way.  
  • Engagement has been extraordinary. We hosted monthly virtual Connect Over Cocktails with great conversations and lots of laughs, plus a Virtual Trivia Night & Holiday Party which raised nearly $350 for the scholarship.
  • Careers Over Coffee has met twice a month giving us the opportunity to socialize and discuss current and professional topics in small groups. These remarkable mornings drew students and guests to join us and get to know WCA!
  • Freelance Austin has held nine virtual lunch programs averaging 25 attendees—a thriving part of WCA offering excellent topics, speakers, and networking! 
  • In 2020, WCA formed a Diversity, Inclusion & Equity (DE&I) Task Force to ensure WCA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is clear, prominent, on-going and part of the fabric of the organization. Task Force recommendations are being incorporated into Board roles and processes. Look for additional future opportunities to serve in an on-going DE&I Advisory Group. 
  • Looking ahead, we are excited to host you at Banner Brunch virtually on May 1, 2021! 

Thank you to the 2020-21 WCA Board for leading us virtually this year with skill, creativity, innovation, and flair! Each of our Board members showed up for our members in tremendous ways. 

2021-22 Preview 

We will continue to grow and support each other professionally and personally, and that will include safely doing so in-person! We’ll also balance virtual and in-person events. WCA will continue to focus on valuable programming centered around community, industry, and progress. We strive to bring high-touch events for members to cultivate meaningful connections (which WCA is so valued for) for Careers Over Coffee, Connect Over Cocktails, and Peer Mentoring. 

We are also excited to advance our soon-to-launch podcast, a massive undertaking born from our Philanthropy team! We are working to grow our membership in a way that is more reflective of our community bringing a DE&I Focus. A DE&I Advisory Committee will be formed in the coming months to help continue to guide us and enhance our DE&I Task Force recommendations.

Join us! Contact presidentelect@wcaustin.org to get involved. We offer small bites, plus annual commitments—there is a place for everyone!

Meet Your 2021-22 Board of Directors

Join us as we welcome our incoming WCA Board. The 2021-22 Board will take office June 1, 2021. 

President Ellen Decareau
Past President Andrea Exter
President-Elect Jacqueline Sinex
Secretary/Operations Genevieve Britton
Treasurer Jenevieve Andersen
Co-VPs of Programs Anne Lasseigne Tiedt & Stacey Lawson
Communications Alice M. Walton
Membership Ericka Foster
Philanthropy Kirsten Longnecker
Banner Sara H. Sturtevant
Careers Monique Carreon
Co-VPs of Engagement Jennifer Jones & Melanie Johnson
Development Kim Barnes
Freelance Austin Gail Gonzales
Get Smart TBD

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Exter is cofounder/CEO of Monarch Media & Consulting, Inc. She specializes in providing collaborative project management promoting each client’s purpose by publishing print and digital magazines and specialized publications that help them communicate with their members, readers and customers.