I was pretty sure I’d fallen off the feminist face of the planet following my family’s move to Kansas City.
Everywhere I went, every company I interviewed at, every organization I joined appeared to be run by men. Even the local women’s networking group was led by male professionals (WTF?).
“What does your husband do?” became the most frequently asked question following my introduction.
I was even asked if my MBA was “the same as a man’s MBA” at a Chamber of Commerce event. That one literally left me speechless.
Accustomed to the more gender equal working world of the East and West Coasts, I did not take too well to (repeatedly) being the only woman in the boardroom, classroom, department, etc. Expressing my frustrations regarding the well-seated Kansas City patriarchy to the few other female professionals I encountered was typically met with a wistful, “Well, at least you get a chance to be included…”
Inclusion? How about influence – you know, like the male run boards, companies, and government have? Getting a “chance” to sit at the table (aka be the token millennial woman) was supposed to be better than nothing, yet was not good enough to offer any real influence. I wanted my career to amount to more than serving as a half-hearted attempt by archaic organizations trying to appear “hip” and “diverse” in their latest press releases.
Like millions of other accomplished female professionals, I’d jumped through the educational and experience hoops that are supposed to serve as cover charge; yet, I was repeatedly passed over for positions filled by less-educated, less-experienced male colleagues, and was asked to “pour the coffee” at board meetings that I’d (somehow) managed to garner a seat.
Get me outta here!
My search for a more 21st century level of gender equality first led me to call my buddies back on the coasts and beg them to help me find a new job, so I could leave the Kansas City Bro Club a distant vision in my rearview mirror. That didn’t work (enter: U.S. Army).
My second we-gotta-do-something strategy led me to the Women’s Foundation. Have you heard of it? It’s beyond amazing.
The Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality and opportunity for women through events, research, programs, and policy initiatives. They are the real deal.
Two amazing Women’s Foundation programs that helped me along in my career (beyond their life-changing advocacy and applied workplace research) including the Appointment’s Project and We Work for Change Annual Event.
The Women’s Foundation’s Appointments Project
The Appointments Project is an organizational initiative providing assistance and support to women seeking board and commission positions in the states of Kansas and Missouri. The Women’s Foundation Appointments Project Team assists interested members with identifying potential positions and the application process. It’s a wonderful way to help female change agents and thought leaders increase gender representation on previously male-dominated community and state-level initiatives. If you’re a Kansas or Missouri resident interested in giving back to your community through board service, I highly recommend applying to the Women’s Foundation Appointments Project today. Your voice needs to be heard! Click here to start your application.
The Women’s Foundation’s We Work for Change Annual Event
As a member of the Women’s Foundation’s Appointments Project, I received a sponsorship to attend the organization’s We Work for Change Annual Event, held at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. We Work for Change celebrated the Women’s Foundations’ 25 Years of service, highlighting multiple community and organizational leaders that have demonstrated their dedication to gender parity in the Kansas City area. A few of the notable speakers included: Dr. Sheena Greitens (Missouri’s First Lady, fearless caregiver advocate, and fellow military spouse), Mayor Sly James (Kansas City, Missouri), Wendy Doyle (CEO of the Women’s Foundation), and the inspiring Keynote, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
While a number of inspirational things were said during the event, the one quote that stuck with me came from Samantha Power: “What are you normally not that these not-normal times require you to be?” As an accomplished scholar (she teaches at Harvard), war correspondent, and author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Power knows a lot about the brave, and often uncomfortable, actions not-normal times so often require. Throughout the evening, she shared stories from the United Nations, the Oval Office, and the front lines – all seasons within her career that required her to stand up for human rights through actions that weren’t exactly “normal” or familiar.
Equal Representation in Kansas and Missouri
Being a part of the Women’s Foundation has greatly enhanced my Kansas City experience, but it’s also provided me an opportunity to enhance Kansas City through my experience. While Kansas City, like many industrial hubs across America, may (currently) retain patriarchal preference in multiple areas of commerce and leadership, equal representation is becoming more and more of a probability thanks to initiatives like the Women’s Foundation and their trailblazing supporters.
If you reside in the state of Kansas or Missouri, I would highly recommend exploring the Women’s Foundation and consider how both you and your organization can get involved. Learn more at: www.womens-foundation.org .