The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri: women building better communities.
Tracy Barnes sent over this update about the Women’s Employment Network and I was instantly impressed and moved by their dedication to this group and the participants. Read on to hear Tracy’s story about this powerful group of JLKCMO women.
For months we had been planning and coming up with topic ideas to present to the Women’s Employment Network (or WEN) Saturday class participants. My Junior League group was passionate about informing these WEN participants about updates in social media, interviewing and networking tips. Monthly, we presented different topics in addition to the curriculum they already received from WEN. Their attendance at our Saturday presentations was always voluntary, so it surprised me when nearly fifteen ladies would consistently show up to hear us speak.
After nearly a year of presenting and getting to know these ladies, it was time for WEN’s Annual Meeting and fundraiser. A sold out crowd of roughly a thousand patrons, featuring Mayor Sly James, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II and his wife Dianne Cleaver, sat down for the presentation. As the opening slide show played, I saw the smiling faces of the women I had gotten to know over the past year. One of the women proudly posing for the camera was a regular attendee to our Junior League Saturday sessions. I remember she had attended our session on the importance of creating a LinkedIn profile. Towards the end of the presentation she raised her hand and stated, “I thought all I needed was a resume and interview techniques! I didn’t know about all of this!” She was excited to get into the computer lab and get a profile set up for herself.
That was the general feeling we got from the WEN ladies. They were so ready to learn, so ready to take in all the advice we had for them. Whether we were providing tips on networking or interview skills, or giving a computer lab tutorial on how social media could assist them in their job searches, these ladies were always enthusiastic and grateful for the opportunity to learn more.
The WEN ladies came from many diverse backgrounds. Some had been laid off after decades of being employed at the same business. Some had been stay-at-home mothers who now had a change in circumstances; their husbands had left, they fled an abusive relationship, or their children were now grown. They suffered from a large gap in their work history that made them seem undesirable to employers. Others were tired of constantly finding themselves underemployed. One participant stated that she finally wanted to have a career, not just a job. A few ladies expressed interest in being entrepreneurs. No matter their background or future plans, the women all had one thing in common: they had a desire to better themselves.
As I looked around the Annual Meeting, I saw some of those same women dispersed throughout the crowd. They were dressed in their suits, smiling and talking with other attendees, and if I hadn’t recognized them from class, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish them from the other professional women in the room. They belonged there. They had worked hard to graduate from WEN’s program, and they were now confident businesswomen. The proof of the good work WEN was doing was right in front of me.