Women’s History Month – Central Ohio Chapter Tribute to Most Tenure Woman Member
By John Palmer, APR, assembly delegate and past president, Central Ohio Chapter (March 17, 2021)
Communities and organizations recognize Women’s History Month in March to celebrate the tremendous contributions and service women provided. Women’s History Month origins as a national celebration go back to 1981 when Congress passed legislation which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Over time that grew to become a monthly recognition.
PRSA Central Ohio Chapter is proud to have 180 women members, nearly 74% of its total membership. Of those 180 members, 31 have earned their APR and three are members of the PRSA College of Fellows. Through leadership service, committee work, programing development, accreditation promotion and membership engagement, women have made important contributions to our chapter.
Most Tenured Woman Member – Denise Shively, APR
Our longest active serving woman member is Denise Shively, APR, senior instructor, Otterbein University’s Communication Department. Shively joined PRSA on Nov. 1, 1980 and she was immediately involved with the Chapter’s liaison committee working with the PRSSA chapters in the area. After being asked to teach a public relations class at Otterbein (College) University that opportunity grew to the establishment of a full-time undergraduate public relations program where she became a full-time faculty member. Shively was active with the Central Ohio chapter’s accreditation program and participated as a speaker and panelist for the readiness review process. She credits her involvement with PRSSA to her career, “I actually got my start in the field as a PRSSA member while in college,” she said. “The experience set the foundation for me to pursue the profession. My connection through PRSA led me to becoming a professional adviser and ultimately a faculty adviser.”
Her earliest memory of the Central Ohio Chapter, “as a young public relations professional walking into a luncheon that had to be 70 percent or more men,” she recalled. “And to a young professional, they all seemed to be a lot older than I was. It was a bit intimidating at the time, but also a great challenge to help support the women who were actively engaged in the group.”
Shively’s favorite memory of the chapter was completing the APR exam (handwritten at the time). She convened a study group and they all worked diligently over several months to prepare for the exam. “I can still feel that sense of relief when it was over and empowerment when I learned I had earned my APR,” she said.
People inspire her and she has had the opportunity to work with so many different students and professionals throughout the world during her career. Through her teaching, she has been able to travel with students to various locations domestically and internationally to learn about various programs, particularly nonprofits and advocacy organizations. “I am often humbled by the work others accomplish on behalf of their communities and marginalized communities, said Shively. “That's the power of communication. In addition, I've put my public relations experience to work on behalf of USA Artistic Swimming (formerly synchronized swimming) as a national team manager and current president. Olympic athletes, particularly in 2020-2021 are amazing individuals working towards such high goals against significant challenges in this day.”
Shively believes our responsibilities as communicators are to build diverse staffs, volunteers, clients, and leadership teams. She recalls a personal experience early in her career, “as a young professional interviewing for a position years ago, I was told by a hiring manager, ‘I bet if an irate person came into your office and yelled at you with a complaint, you would cry!’ I immediately was determined to be an open and fair manager whenever that time arrived.” She witnessed the discrimination of young women, particularly when a supervisor overlooked them because that manager or executive didn't think a woman could handle the work-life balance. “I became committed to just practices and as an educator, I embraced those early experiences and committed myself to introducing students to experiences in which they advocate for justice in the workplace and in their communities. It's important work for all of us.”
“PRSA has grown and we see significantly more women engaged in the field now than when I began as a professional,” said Shively. “However, what we do not see is the same percentage of women in executive roles as in entry or mid-career positions. Nor do we see women of color represented at the highest levels of decision-making, particularly in public relations roles.” She credits mentorship as an important resource for her as well as encouragement from women leaders to take on new roles and responsibilities. “It was a challenge as a young professional to balance work and family lives,” she said. “I encourage all young professionals to find at least one mentor who can provide support when the challenges seem overwhelming. If we can keep women in the profession, that will help PRSA grow. If we can help women become leaders of our organizations, that will help society in recognizing that women are valued colleagues, professionals and decision-makers.”