Past, Present, and Future: History of Black Women In Marketing & PR
Women’s History Month is about more than history. It’s about the expanding recognition of women’s accomplishments; not just those of the past or current but encouraging the women of the future as well. As women, we must hold each other up. We remember the past to inspire ourselves today. However, we must remember to inspire the future generations now and not wait for them to go looking.
We thought it would be fitting to close Women’s History Month by taking a look at the past, present and future female leaders in the marketing, advertising and PR industry. As communication experts, our voices in the industry are vital. We communicate to the world what representation, equality and diversity look like. At different points in our lives, we exist in each of these categories. What do you want yours to say, and who do you want to inspire?
Remembering the Past
Caroline Robinson Jones
Caroline Robinson Jones broke racial and gender barriers by becoming the most prominent Black woman in advertising. In the early 1960s, Jones started her advertising career right after college in New York as a secretary and copywriter trainee at J. Walter Thompson, later working her way up to creative director. During her career, some of her clients included: McDonald’s, Toys ’R’ Us, KFC, American Express, Campbell Soup, Prudential, U.S. Postal Service and Anheuser-Busch. Jones launched a series of Black ad agencies throughout her career, including the firm that she had opened known as Creative Resources Management in 1986.
Inez Y. Kaiser
Inez Kaiser overcame the hardships that she faced during the Jim Crow era in Kansas City by becoming the first African-American woman to open her own public relations firm in 1957, Inez Kaiser & Associates, which served national clients. She was the first African-American woman to have her story published in a PR history textbook. While working in the industry some of her clients included: Jenkins Music, 7-Up, Sterling Drug, Burger King, Southwestern Bell Telephone and Sears Roebuck.
Barbara Gardner Proctor
Barbara Gardner Proctor had no idea that she would open and operate the second-largest African-American advertising agency in the U.S. She started her advertising career at the Post-Keyes-Gardner Agency where she won 21 awards during her three years at the agency before accepting a position at Gene Taylor Associates as a copy supervisor. In 1970, Proctor eventually opened her own advertising company known as Proctor & Gardner Advertising.
Carol H. Williams
Carol H. Williams has been at the forefront of the company she founded, Carol H. Williams Advertising, since 1986. She has led and motivated more than 5,000 employees over a 30-year career and has exceeded $30 million in revenue during high-performance and growth periods. Her company prides itself on its award-winning advertising and marketing campaigns for many Fortune 500 companies. Williams started her career at Leo Burnett Co. in Chicago and quickly earned a position as their first African-American female creative director and vice president. After 13 years at Leo Burnett, she served two years as senior vice president, creative director at Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco.
Dr. Sheila Brooks, Ph.D.
Dr. Sheila Brooks is an Emmy Award-winning marketing, media and communications executive, a former television anchor and executive producer. She is founder, president and CEO of SRB Communications, our advertising, marketing and public relations agency based in Washington, D.C., which has provided advertising, multicultural and crisis communications strategy, creative, media buying and video production for more than 30 years. In 2019, we received the highest honor from corporate America when SRB was named Supplier of the Year by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Dr. Brooks’ résumé could go on for pages, but as the women closest to her every day, we find inspiration in her drive, passion and kindness. She is a true titan of industry and an even more amazing woman to know.
Symone D. Sanders
A champion for women, Sanders is currently serving as senior adviser and chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris. A seasoned political strategist and former CNN political commentator, Sanders was a senior adviser in President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. In 2016, at the age of 25, she became the youngest national press secretary on record while working on U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. That same year, she was named to Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of 16 young Americans shaping the 2016 election. Sanders also served as principal of the 360 Group, where she provided strategic communications guidance to organizations, businesses, individuals, campaigns and candidates and helps clients find sound solutions to tough political and social problems.
Looking to the Future
As we traveled through the women of the past and present, we have arrived at the most important stop on our journey, the women of the future! Women like our CEO and so many others have truly paved the way for the rest of us. The younger generations, yes, we are talking about the infamous millennials and the up-and-coming Gen Zers, are the ones who are responsible for carrying on the torch. It is up to them to take what the women of the past have gone through, as well as what the current female leaders are going through and learn from it, build on it and inspire the generations to come after them.
This Women’s History Month we highlight all of the females who are chasing their dreams, fighting to overcome the daily barriers that are set before them and living boldly in their truths. We know for sure that the advertising, marketing and PR industry wouldn’t be the same without the leaders who came before us, so we honor you and we can only aspire to be as great as you!
To the future female business owners, PR executives, marketing influencers, publicists, advertising directors, CEOs and presidents, and more, we salute you this Women’s History Month. You are a part of history in the making, so don’t you ever forget that!
– Sincerely, the Women of SRB Communications