Association for Women in Communications

The Association for Women in Communications (AWC) is an American professional organization for women in the communications industry.[2][3][4]

Association for Women in Communications
Logo used since 2018
MottoConnect, Engage, Advance, Lead
FormationApril 8, 1909 (1909-04-08)[1]
Region served
United States
3,000 active members
Formerly called
Theta Sigma Phi
Women in Communications, Inc.


Theta Sigma Phi

The Association for Women in Communications began in 1909 as Theta Sigma Phi (ΘΣΦ), an honorary society at the University of Washington.[2][4] It was founded by seven female students at the University of Washington in Seattle who had entered the college's new journalism program, the second of its kind in the country. By 1915, there were Theta Sigma Phi chapters at the universities of Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon and Ohio State University. Officers from the Washington Chapter still doubled as national officers, and the organization began publishing The Matrix, a Magazine for Women Journalists.[5]

In 1918, Theta Sigma Phi held its first convention at the University of Kansas. A year later, women in Kansas City founded the first alumnae chapter (now known as professional chapters), followed by women in Des Moines and Indianapolis.

World War I brought more women into newspaper jobs as their male colleagues went to battle. Theta Sigma Phi member Alice Rohe was a United Press reporter in Rome; Bessie Beatty of the San Francisco Bulletin and Sigrid Schultz of the Chicago Tribune reported from Germany as the war ended. But in the postwar economic slump, hostility against "women in men's jobs" ran high. Many editors relegated women to society pages instead of "hard news."

Although women gained the right to vote in 1920, support lagged for other reforms. Ruby Black, who was national president, editor of The Matrix and the first manager of an employment bureau for members, noted in 1931 that female journalists couldn't get reporting jobs at the same pay as similarly qualified men.

Theta Sigma Phi strengthened as a national network during the 1930s. The association hired a professional director and founded a national office in 1934. It inaugurated the Headliner Awards in 1939 to honor members who had made outstanding contributions to the field. The group gave Eleanor Roosevelt honorary membership for her efforts to aid female communicators. The First Lady's most notable action was to close her news conferences to male reporters. Mrs. Roosevelt contributed several articles to The Matrix.[5]

By 1940, Theta Sigma Phi had 39 chapters, and World War II was expanding opportunities for women. But inequality persisted, and women were regarded as temporary or less-serious workers. At the Theta Sigma Phi convention in 1946, delegates required all chapters to eliminate any race restrictions from their bylaws.

By 1950, the group had grown to 47 campus chapters and 29 alumnae groups as more women began to work.

In 1964, Theta Sigma Phi established its headquarters in Austin, Texas. Jo Caldwell Meyer retired after serving as executive secretary for 24 years, leaving a legacy of leadership and personal attention to members' needs.[5]

Women in Communications

In 1972, Theta Sigma Phi was renamed to Women in Communications, Inc. (WICI).[2][4] That year, the organization also voted to admit men into membership.[6][7]

In 1973, Women in Communications created an awards program (later named the Clarion Awards) to recognize excellence in communications. A new monthly, National Newsletter joined The Matrix in recording the group's news. WICI joined the national ERA coalition to fight the mounting opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1979, WICI united with 11 communications organizations to found the First Amendment Congress, which works to preserve First Amendment rights.[8]

WICI increasingly defended the freedoms of speech and the press. Leaders protested the news blackout during the invasion of Grenada and spoke out to Congress against proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act. More than 100 chapters organized congressional letter-writing campaigns. WICI joined the National Committee on Pay Equity and awarded Rep. Mary Rose Oakar of Ohio an honorary membership because of her leadership on the issue.

In early 1988, the WICI Board of Directors moved the group's headquarters to Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, DC, to be closer to the seat of government.[9]

Membership peaked in the mid-1980s at around 13,000, and by 1995 the organization had around 8,000 members and significant debt.[10]

WICI leaders instituted the Rising Star Award in 1990 for outstanding student members. Laura Glad, of California State University at Fullerton, was the first recipient. WICI delegates voiced support for the Civil Rights Act, which President Bush signed in 1991, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, which President Clinton signed in 1993. The end of the year saw a new partnership emerge between WICI and Capital Cities/ABC Inc. on its "Stop Sexual Harassment" campaign.[11]

Association for Women in Communications

In 1996 WICI was dissolved, and the organization was renamed to the Association for Women in Communications.[2][3][4][12][13] At that time, management of the organization was handed to a management firm, and finances stabilized under the new board and organization. The current firm is ASCENT Management in Alexandria, Virginia. The nonprofit AWC Matrix Foundation was established in 1998 as their educational affiliate.

The mission of the AWC Matrix Foundation, founded in 1997, is to promote the advancement of women in the communications profession by providing funds for education, research and publications. It carries out its educational and charitable goals in cooperation with the Association for Women in Communications.

Three Matrix Foundation initiatives are:

  • Professional Certification Program recognizes excellence in all areas of communications; provides an opportunity to demonstrate communication and management skills and enhance employment/client potential.
  • Edith Wortman First Amendment Award honors professional communicators for their efforts relating to First Amendment issues.
  • Barbara Erickson Scholarship Fund gives college students an opportunity to meet and mingle with professional communicators by funding attendance at the AWC National Professional Conference.

Theta Sigma Phi Chapters

The chapters of Theta Sigma Phi as of 1968 were:[14][15]

  • 1909. Alpha, University of Washington
  • 1910. Beta, University of Wisconsin
  • 1911. Gamma, University of Missouri
  • 1913. Delta, Indiana University
  • 1913. Epsilon, University of Kansas
  • 1915. Zeta, University of Oklahoma
  • 1915. Theta, University of Oregon
  • 1913. Eta, Ohio State University
  • 1916. Iota, Stanford University
  • 1916. Kappa, University of Montana
  • 1916. Lambda, University of Nebraska
  • 1916. Mu, Kansas State College
  • 1917. Nu, University of Minnesota
  • 1919. Xi, University of Texas
  • 1917. Omicron Iowa State College
  • 1918. Pi, University of Illinois
  • 1918. Rho, University of Iowa
  • 1919. Sigma, DePauw University
  • 1920. Tau, New York University
  • 1920. Upsilon, Lawrence College
  • 1920. Phi. Knox College
  • 1920. Chi, University of Kentucky
  • 1920. Psi, Columbia University
  • 1920. Omega, Syracuse University
  • 1922. Alpha Alpha, University of California
  • 1923. Alpha Beta, Northwestern University
  • 1923. Alpha Gamma, Marquette University
  • 1923. Alpha Delta, Grinnell College
  • 1925. Alpha Epsilon, Baylor College, Belton, Tex.
  • 1925. Alpha Zeta, Washington State College
  • 1925. Alpha Eta, Oregon State College
  • 1926. Alpha Theta, University of Michigan
  • 1927. Alpha Iota, Butler University
  • 1927. Alpha Kappa, Louisiana State University
  • 1927. Alpha Lambda, University of Colorado
  • 1930. Alpha Mu, Southern Methodist University
  • 1930. Alpha Nu, Baylor University
  • 1930. Alpha Xi, University of Georgia
  • 1930. Alpha Omicron, University of Southern California
  • 1932. Alpha Pi, Texas Woman's University
  • 1932, Alpha Rho, Drake University
  • 1933 Alpha Sigma. Temple
  • 1934 Alpha Tau, Pennsylvania State
  • 1941 Alpha Upsilon, Texas Tech
  • 1941 Alpha Phi, Ohio
  • 1942 Alpha Chi, Oklahoma State
  • 1944 Alpha Psi, Michigan State
  • 1946 Alpha Omega, Franklin
  • 1947 Beta Alpha, North Dakota
  • 1947 Beta Beta, West Virginia
  • 1949 Beta Gamma, Alabama
  • 1949 Beta Delta, South Dakota State
  • 1950 Beta Epsilon, Houston
  • 1951 Beta Zeta, Kent State
  • 1952 Beta Eta, Mississippi
  • 1952 Beta Theta, New Mexico
  • 1953 Beta Iota, Miami (FL)
  • 1953 Beta Kappa, North Texas State
  • 1954 Beta Lambda, Purdue
  • 1954 Beta Mu, Wayne State
  • 1955 Beta Nu, Idaho
  • 1956 Beta Xi, Florida
  • 1957 Beta Omicron, American
  • 1958 Beta Pi, San Jose State
  • 1959 Beta Rho, UCLA
  • 1959 Beta Sigma, Utah
  • 1961 Beta Tau, Southern Illinois
  • 1961 Beta Upsilon, Arizona



Notable members


  • 1915-, The Matrix, a Magazine for Women Journalists (currently replaced by Communiqué, an electronic newsletter)


  1. Theta Sigma Phi. Nu Chapter papers at University of Minnesota
  2. Burt, Elizabeth V. (2000). Women's Press Organizations, 1881-1999. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 11–20. ISBN 9780313306617. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  3. Kopecki, Dawn (1996). "Makeover gives group new identity, no staff". The Washington Times via Questia Online Library. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  4. Sterling, Christopher H. (2003). Encyclopedia of Radio. Taylor & Francis. pp. 177–179. ISBN 9781579582494. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  5. "AWC is One of the Originals". Association for Women in Communications. Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  6. Marzolf, Marion (1977). Up from the Footnote: A History of Women Journalists. Hastings House, ISBN 9780803875029
  7. Nadler, Lawrence B.; Nadler, Marjorie Keeshan;, Todd-Mancillas, William R (1987). Advances in Gender and Communication Research. University Press of America, ISBN 9780819164780
  8. "The 1970s: New name, new strengths". The Association for Women in Communications. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  9. "The '80s: A Decade of Growth, Change and Leadership". Association for Women in Communications. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
  10. Drale, Christina S. (2003). Association for Women in Communications. In Sterling, Christopher H., Ed. Encyclopedia of Radio 3-Volume Set. Taylor & Francis, ISBN 9781579582494
  11. "The 1990s: Embracing the Future". The Association for Women in Communications. Archived from the original on 2014-04-23. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  12. "The Association for Women in Communications Celebrates 100 Years of Championing Women in Communications". Women's Health Weekly via HighBeam Research. 2009. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2012. (subscription required)
  13. Bulkeley, Christy C (2004). Whose news? Progress and status of women in newspapers (mostly) and television news. - Seeking Equity for Women in Journalism and Mass Communication Education: a 30-year update. pp. 183–204. ISBN 9781135624002. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  14. William Raimond Baird (1957). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. G. Banta Company. p. 630.
  15. William Raimond Baird (1977). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. G. Banta Company. p. 535.
  16. The Key (PDF). Vol. 55 no. 3. October 1938. p. 325 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ARTnews Wins a Clarion Award, in ARTnews 07/01/10.
  18. "About Clarion Awards". The Association for Women in Communications. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  19. "Overview: The Annual NYWICI Matrix Awards". New York Women in Communications, Inc. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  20. "Headliner Award Recipients". The Association for Women in Communications. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
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