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Trailblazing: United WE

United WE, formerly the Women’s Foundation, was founded in 1991. Karen Herman served as its original chairman. In addition to Karen, the founders included Marjorie Powell Allen, Janice Benjamin, Bunni Copaken, Joan Dillon, Janette Draper, Crystal Hart-Whitmore, Karen Haren, Dorothy Johnson, Janet Brown Moss, Marjorie Sirridge, Beth Smith, and Linda Hood Talbott. The organization’s mission is “to advance all women’s economic and civic leadership.” As Wendy Doyle, the president, noted, “Too many women remain on the sidelines because they face unnecessary obstacles in the workforce or in finding a seat at the civic leadership table. These are solvable challenges. It is critical that we advance systems-level change to strengthen women and families for the economic development of our cities, our states, and our nation.” 

Wendy, Doyle, United WE; with Mark and Kathy Donovan and Dan Cranshaw at the 2021 Champion Breakfast

The organization overcomes systemic barriers to women’s economic development and civic leadership by investing in research, advocacy, and policy solutions. It has conducted 20 research studies. Thanks to its advocacy, 39 policy actions have been taken to remove barriers for women. In addition, United WE has supported more than 170 civic appointments for women. 

The organization’s work has been based in Kansas and Missouri. It is now operating the Appointments Project in seven states, with the intent of having a nationwide presence. Notable recent achievements include an expanded family leave policy for Jackson County, Missouri, employees and the expansion of its Kansas City Appointments Project. Wendy stated, “We are most proud of policy reforms that have impacted thousands of women across Kansas and Missouri, such as securing salary history bans on employment applications to advance equal pay efforts, increasing paid family leave policies at city, county, and state levels, and helping more women become entrepreneurs or stay in the workforce by improving occupational licensing policies.” The organization also provides aid in fighting against sexual harassment. 

Missouri State Senator Barbara Washington, Wendy Doyle, United WE; and Tamara Clark Sykes (out of camera range) Mayor Quinton Lucas  

Volunteers are welcomed by United WE. Those who commit to taking three actions per month to advance gender equity in their community can become United WE Ambassadors. Other volunteer projects include assisting with key awareness and fundraising events, such as International Women’s Day, Champion Breakfast, and We Work for Change

“Getting a board or commission appointment can seem intimidating, but by working with United WE and the Appointments Projects, not only did they guide me through the steps, they also remained my constant advocate,” said Angela Crawford, who was appointed to the Kansas City, Missouri Climate Protection steering committee. She added, “It is because of their support and resources that I’m now serving on a mayor-appointed committee for the City of Kansas City.”    

Featured in the March 19, 2022 issue of The Independent.
By Heather N. Paxton

Heather N. Paxton

Heather N. Paxton’s name first appeared in The Independent in a birth announcement back in — oh, never mind. In the mid-1990s, Heather joined the staff as a replacement for a friend who was expecting a visit from the stork. (Let’s hope Heather sent a baby present. The boy is a college graduate now.) Her 20s, 30s, 40s, and now her 50s: Heather has been a staff member for at least brief periods in all of these decades. She is most at home in the office when she is perusing the archives.


Bailey Pianalto Photography


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