Changing the face of civic leadership in Kansas City

04/22/2014 5:34 PM

04/22/2014 7:09 PM

Shortly after his election, Mayor Sly James was summoned to a meeting of business leaders. Upon arrival, he noticed one overwhelming similarity.

Everyone in the room was a white male, save him. Women were absent. “I thought, seriously?” James recounted.

James is trying to change the face of leadership via a Women’s Empowerment Initiative. Research by University of Kansas professor Barbara Kerr details the problems: Women are underrepresented on city-appointed boards and commissions largely because no one asks them to serve, women often underestimate their know-how and many meetings aren’t run in a woman-friendly fashion.

The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City wants to help change that, launching an “appointments project” to create a talent bank of women and minorities. Not only will city boards better reflect our community, many future leaders emerge through the ranks of civic service.

James is on the right track. Nine of 13 of his staff members are women. Yet only one-third of current city board and commission seats are held by women. That’s fixable. As Kerr told a gathering on Monday to much murmured agreement, what women need are efficient, well-planned meetings with clear agendas.

Kansas City women and minorities interested in stepping forward are invited to submit resumes to

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