Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly saluted United WE Wednesday as the women-focused nonprofit celebrated 30 years of change-making across the two-state region — from strengthening workplace benefits to empowering more women into civic leadership.
“United WE is making a huge difference. Just this year, United WE partnered with my office to significantly expand parental leave benefits for primary givers, secondary givers and foster parents,” Kelly said at United WE’s We Work for Change 2021 hybrid event at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
“Creating a supportive environment for families is a win for all of us. It boosts our economy. It improves health and education outcomes, and it strengthens our workforce,” she continued. “… I want to thank United WE leadership and staff again for 30 years of investing in women of all ages. Know that I share your mission; I share your vision; and I will continue to seek out opportunities to empower more women.”
Click here to learn more about United WE.
The We Work For Change event highlighted United WE’s most significant achievements within the past three decades: 20 research studies, 39 policy actions and 162 women appointed to civic leadership positions through the Appointments Project — an initiative launched in 2014 with then-KCMO Mayor Sly James.
“We invest a lot in evidence-based research; it is a core principle of the organization,” said Wendy Doyle, president and CEO of United WE. “ … We’ve really chosen to lean into the policy space to look at what we can do to cut the red tape to make it easier for women to work, or start a new business or have a good experience in the workplace.
“The Appointments Project is [about] working with elected officials on the importance of diversity around the decision making table and appointing women to government boards at the city, county and state level,” Doyle explained. “It started here in Kansas City, but it’s really taken a hold and we’re sharing the word beyond our Midwest borders.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, echoed Kelly’s support for United WE in virtual remarks Wednesday.
The event raised more than $670,000 to support United WE’s mission and programs, according to the organization.
Color blind vs color brave
Joining the event as another virtual speaker, Mellody Hobson — co-founder of Ariel Investments, the chair of Starbucks and the only Black woman to lead the board of directors for an S&P 500 company — encouraged attendees to not be color blind, but color brave, a phrase she used while giving a TedTalk on speaking openly about race.
“I’m actually asking you to see race, because in seeing it, you see what’s missing,” Hobson shared. “And in seeing what’s missing, you’ll realize that you need to invite more people into your life who don’t look like you, who don’t think like you, who don’t act like you and who don’t come from where you come from.”
A large focus of the Appointments Initiative is to fully embrace that concept of being “color brave” in order to help women of all backgrounds be appointed to government positions, Doyle added.
Contributing to the ecosystem of empowering women does not require one to be a CEO or government official, Dufu noted. Rather, the most impactful action an individual can take is to support the women in their life.
“Within the next 24 hours, find a woman or girl … look at her and affirm her,” Dufu said. “Tell her, ‘You’re so smart, so beautiful, so loved. You can do this.’ If that woman you need to do that with is you in the mirror, so be it.”
Moving forward, United WE is continuing its town hall discussions across Missouri — and virtually — to study issues surrounding women’s participation and advancement in the workforce amidst the pandemic.
“Part of our strategic planning work that we had identified is gathering stories from women,” Doyle said. “We were planning that for a couple of years [in the future], but we elevated that because we needed to get out and hear about the experiences of women recovering from the pandemic. Then, we can work on solutions to these current and ongoing challenges.
United WE’s next town hall is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce boardroom at Union Station. Individuals can register here.
Click here for more information United WE’s town hall discussions.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.