Women Communicators of Austin: Our History

 

Women Communicators of Austin (WCA) has a rich heritage dating back to its formation in September 1929. The organization was established by women initiated into the campus chapter of Theta Sigma Phi at The University of Texas at Austin. Theta Sigma Phi had been founded back in 1919 by journalism students in Washington state, with other chapters forming across the country. Our chapter later split into a student and a professional chapter (as students graduated) and in those early years, the alumnae gathered at two meetings each month for professional programs and to exchange information. At our inception, we were guided by the following principles: 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.

In the 1960s, Theta Sigma Phi chapters became more involved in public policy and social issues, especially discriminatory salary practices and lack of advancement opportunities for women. In 1972, they voted to change the name to Women in Communications International (WICI). That same year, the organization passed a resolution calling for more affirmative action to increase the number of female college journalism professors and to remove discriminatory practices impeding promotion in academic ranks.

The national office was located in Austin from the 1960s until the 1980s and was run by an Executive Secretary, Jo Caldwell Meyer, on a part-time basis. Our scholarship program is named in her honor. In 1980, the national office moved to the Washington DC area to monitor legislation and represent the views of the organization to Congress and various Washington publics. The organization also established the Vanguard Award to recognize positive, non-stereotypical portrayals of women in advertising and heighten the general awareness of factors that enhance the image and status of women.

In 1990, WICI voiced support for the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Civil Rights Act. In 1993, the organization partnered with Capital Cities/ABC., Inc. on the national “Stop Sexual Harassment” campaign.

In 1996, WICI went bankrupt and the national organization reorganized under a new name – The Association for Women in Communications (AWC). Because of the uncertainty with the national organization, the local Austin board voted to incorporate independently.

In 1996, board member Kelly Headrick worked with an attorney to establish our organization as a 501 (c) (3) charitable nonprofit under a separate charter. The purpose of this move was specifically to protect the Austin organization by reducing its dependency on the national organization and to ensure that our organization could continue to operate if the national organization failed. With this move, we became an independent nonprofit corporation, working in affiliation with the national organization.

As the city of Austin grew in size and prominence, so did our organization. In fact, it became the largest chapter of the national AWC organization, producing more programming than the national organization. After much research and consideration, the Austin leadership determined that it would be better able to serve the needs of its members with complete autonomy. Therefore, in March 2013, the affiliation between what had been the Austin chapter of AWC and the national organization was discontinued, and Women Communicators of Austin was born.

Today, WCA is one of the largest and most diverse all-volunteer professional communications organizations in the city. Our membership includes more than two hundred women and men from across a broad spectrum of communication specialties including journalism, public relations, marketing, graphic design and corporate communications.

We continue our long tradition of supporting professional communicators across all disciplines through professional development and education, mentoring the next generation of communicators, creating a well-connected and supportive membership and bestowing annual professional honors and undergraduate scholarships. The future is brighter than ever.

 

Support our tradition by joining or renewing your membership today!