“Towards the end of the 1960s, the numerical strength of the CWA began to decline…..A major concern of the Association was its failure to attract younger women. In 1969 the Country Woman commented that perhaps the older members had become complacent, even boring: ‘The majority of our members are past their youth and with the best will in the world, cannot guarantee their present level of service…’”. ¹
And here I was thinking that direct and sometimes blunt comments were a new addition (or subtraction depending on your personal preference or viewpoint) to our social skill set! The chapter, titled Soul Searching (from Serving The Country by Helen Townsend), goes on to record, “It was felt the Association should make an effort to appeal to women who were more educated, ‘as younger women tend to be’ and to fit in with their lifestyle, ‘not have meetings late in the afternoon, when husbands come home, children have to be met and dinner cooked’”.²
The last comment will probably engender different thoughts depending on your point of view but for my part (especially when the kids were younger) a late afternoon meeting, which might have included a social drink/occasion, would have been the ideal excuse (& still is…) to opt out of the end of day multi-tasking duties, most often still assigned to women.
However, as usual, I digress. The point I am trying to make is that over the years various suggestions and ideas have been put forward to increase membership, preferably of the younger variety and inevitably we, the members of CWA of NSW have, in trying to achieve this goal, relied on “…substantial past achievements…” and “…have given ‘no thought to the humbug of “blowing its own trumpet”³.
I might, at the risk of being hung, drawn and quartered, also suggest that no thought would ever have been given to pay someone else to blow that trumpet.
Well, the adages of “fresh eyes….”, “nothing ventured…” and “you have to spend money…” spring to mind. As does the reminder of how much I moaned when, during my childhood, my mother would preach proverbs!
What I want to say, if I can reign in my thoughts, is that the State Executive Committee, at its recent quarterly meeting, gave approval to retain a Public Relations (PR) firm to promote the association to the wider public with a view to increasing membership and changing perceptions. OMG!
Before this news had (mostly) filtered into Branch land I had one of our, few, very young members ask whether CWA of NSW would consider hiring a PR agency to better market the organisation and its aims to women her age, because that’s how they could be attracted. Remember my comment about ‘fresh eyes’. In the same week I had another member of, shall we say, a different generation and who was clearly a part of ‘the grapevine’, suggest that those funds would be better spent elsewhere.
My thoughts, based on the response we had to the increased publicity secured by the aforementioned PR firm during our Awareness Week, compared to every week since, is that it will be money well spent.
If not, then I will have to wear the “I told you so”!
¹, ², ³ Serving The Country, Helen Townsend, pp209, 210