When I was president of NFPW, the one thing I said I wouldn’t address was a name change. I wanted to focus on SNAP!, or sustainability, networking and professional development. And that’s what I did.
However, when my affiliate Virginia Press Women discussed a name change, I was all for it. VPW was founded in 1958 as an organization for female newspaper editors and writers. In 1973, membership was opened to men.
For too many years, I’ve had individuals (mostly men) say to me, “Oh, that’s that women’s group.” I don’t think they were being derogatory, but that’s how they defined it, and, unfortunately, it often meant they didn’t think as highly of it because they didn’t think it was inclusive.
For the longest time, such comments didn’t bother me much, especially given that women still only earn 77 percent of what men do, according to the White House. Keeping the name was a way to further emphasize the need for parity.
However, when I made the transition from newspaper reporter to PR practitioner, I often felt as if I didn’t truly belong to VPW because I was no longer “press.” In recent years, I’ve had many potential members tell me the same thing. They didn’t think they could join because they worked for a PR firm, were a solo practitioner, wrote a blog or a book, or coordinated events.
Yet one of the things VPW has been so good at is joining all types of communicators and helping individuals transition from journalism to PR or from writer or coordinator to manager or director. The amount of knowledge within the organization is astonishing. More importantly, the members are so willing to share their experience and expertise with others. I’ve learned so much from my peers in this organization.
That’s why when the board proposed a name change, I jumped to support it. Of course, I had plenty to say about the name change having gone through one with an organization for which I worked. And many of our members debated it one rainy Saturday afternoon, exploring all options.
The board took on the challenge and on April 5, members voted to change the name of Virginia Press Women to Virginia Professional Communicators.
No matter what we call ourselves, though, our members – be they journalists, PR practitioners, novelists, men or women – will continue to trail blazes. That’s a group that I want to belong to!