Women account for only one-third of the members on Kansas City’s civic commissions and boards, but a new study suggests ways to increase that involvement.
A report commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, released Monday night, said many women believe that they’re not qualified to serve and that they wouldn’t be asked anyway. They also expressed doubts about how to fit meetings in their busy lives.
According to research by Barbara Kerr, a counseling psychology professor at the University of Kansas, and other researchers, women who do hold civic appointments tend to be disproportionately white, comparatively wealthy and older, with grown children or unmarried.
The report, submitted to Mayor Sly James, suggests development of a support system in which established role models share information about civic structure. It also recommends meeting times that are accessible, and efficient use of time. Greater demographic diversity also is merited, the report said.
In line with the findings, the women’s foundation announced creation of an “Appointments Project,” billed as a “talent bank, adviser and advocate for women seeking appointed positions in local government.”
The project welcomes resumes from any woman resident of Kansas City, Mo., who would like to serve on boards, commissions, task forces or committees. An informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 23 at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Information about the project also is online atwww.wfgkc.org
The report on women and civic engagement found that women are more likely to fill roles relative to the arts, human services and neighborhood quality and less likely to be involved in financial advisory, economic development, building and emergency services roles.
Many women already volunteer for schools, churches and charitable organizations, so they aren’t isolated from civic issues. But, the report said, that involvement often lacks the meeting structure and the conflicts of civic commission meetings.
In addition to wanting to avoid conflict, many women worry about child care, elder care, personal safety and household needs. Those concerns dissuade them from meeting commitments, as do the costs of parking and transportation.
But they care about their communities, and many use social media, such as Facebook, to build networks. While some are disengaged from civic issues, others are aware and know others who are interested.
The study drew from a local survey and focus groups as well as national research. Its findings were made public at an event at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in connection with the mayor’s previously announced Women’s Empowerment Initiative.