Women’s History Month – Most Tenured Woman of Color 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. We are featuring five women leaders of our chapter who have helped pave the way for other women in the chapter.
Most Tenured Woman of Color Member Gayle Saunders, APR
A pioneer for our chapter is Gayle Saunders, APR who helped establish our diversity and inclusion committee in 2016 and led the development of APR and ethics programs for our members. Saunders is the most tenured Black woman member (joined 1994) of the chapter and her board service includes director-at-large, ethics officer, and D&I committee chair and co-founder. This year she is the ethics officer for the chapter. Saunders is the only person of color to receive the Chapter’s Tom Poling award.
When she reflects on the impact women have had in the leadership and membership of the chapter she looks to a quote, “When women succeed, we all succeed.” Saunders is proud to stand on the shoulders of so many great women and celebrate Women’s History Month. “We are a chapter with a significant number of women in leadership and membership,” she said. “I believe our role is each one, teach one. Building a pipeline of leaders in our profession is part of our responsibility. Encouraging our college PRSSA members to continue to be involved in PRSA once they graduate and transition into their careers is important.”
“PRSA has helped my career in a number of ways,” said Saunders. “ The professional development through webinars, the national conference, the online communities, and my opportunity to conduct webinars and sessions – all of these offer a chance to expand your skills, deepen your insights and build your knowledge of the profession. Earning my APR demonstrates to my clients the commitment I have to staying abreast of the trends, keeping my skills current, ethics, standards of our business and professionalism.”
When she seeks inspiration, Saunders looks to her son. “My son inspires me,” she said. “As I watch him navigate transitioning from my little baby boy, to a preteen, teenager and next year, graduating high school – he inspires me to do my best, be my best and do what I can to help make his world more just.”
One of her favorite memories is when she and Jaron Terry planned the first diversity mixer for the chapter and APR boot camp. “We were so energized with planning and making this happen,” she recalls. “We invited diverse members of the community to our mixer to consider joining PRSA and participating in the APR boot camp we were creating. We did not know if people would show up, or even if they were interested and we were anxious about it – we were nervous in anticipation. We laugh about it today, as we had a great mixer and the boot camp was a hit. We had several people earn their APR since and some still focused on pursuing it. In fact, one of the initial diverse mixer attendees, is now a member of the board leading Diversity and Inclusion, after joining PRSA and becoming actively engaged. That’s why engaging and including others matters, it helps build leaders for the future from all backgrounds.”