The formula for economically empowering women

Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Growthology blog.

This guest post is the second in a series by Kauffman Foundation grantees and other partners sharing insights on entrepreneurship diversity and inclusion. These timely topics will be discussed at this year’s Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship, Dec. 1-2, in St. Petersburg, Florida.

At Women’s Foundation, we’re always looking for new solutions to accomplish our mission of eliminating barriers that women face in achieving equity and opportunity. Enabling more women to become entrepreneurs and to open small businesses is one way we can help women succeed economically, helping their families and their communities.

But how do we do make that happen?

1)     First, we identify the issues, through research.

●   In 2015, the Women’s Foundation commissioned a research study with the University of Kansas to learn more about women’s attitudes toward civic engagement in order to address the gender gap on boards and commissions. The study showed that women were interested in serving, but they believed they wouldn’t be asked to serve or lacked confidence that they were qualified.

2)     Then, we develop solutions.

●   As a solution to lay the groundwork for meaningful change, we set up our Appointments Project to help women become more confident and comfortable with the application process and serving on boards and commissions. The project was launched as a partnership with Kansas City Mayor Sly James, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. The project has since expanded to include the State of Kansas and the City of Olathe, KS.

3)     Finally, we get results.

●   Since our first pilot launch of the Appointments Project with Mayor James in 2014, the Appointments Project has helped place 29 women on boards and commissions in Missouri and Kansas. It’s truly moving the needle, and we’re continuing to expand into new cities and counties.

Why does this matter?

By helping promote more women to public boards and commissions, we’re not only closing the gender gap on those boards, but we are ensuring women have the opportunity to make a difference on public policy issues.

The Appointments Project is great because it’s a win-win. More women are empowered to serve in public leadership positions, and the public boards and commissions benefit from more diverse perspectives, leading to more representational policy making.*

Helping more women advance through the Appointments Project is just one example of our work for change. But there’s more…

Recently, we have embarked on a new research project regarding women entrepreneurs and occupational licensing in Missouri. As part of this project, we’ve commissioned the University of Missouri’s Institute of Public Policy to conduct research and work with us to develop policy solutions to address issues holding women back.

Although it may seem like a dry subject and overly bureaucratic, some licensing requirements and structures are real impediments for men and—especially—women who want to open their own businesses. Some of these requirements are burdensome. Some simply don’t make sense. Some are outdated.

Initial research has shown that occupational licensing can discourage innovations in licensed industries and hinder economic mobility, especially for low-income potential entrepreneurs. Many occupations require that an individual spend months or even years satisfying educational or apprenticing benchmarks. Don’t get me wrong, we support smart regulation, but some of these processes were created well before computers even existed. Such barriers eliminate ways for individuals to climb the economic ladder and provide their families with the economic security to prosper.

The final research will be completed this fall. I encourage you to continue checking in with Women’s Foundationfor updates on how we can empower women and support economic development and innovation. Together, we will create the regions’ next chapter of economic growth.

*P.S. Does your area need an Appointments Project? You can connect with us at to learn more.


Wendy Doyle is the President and CEO of Women’s Foundation, where she promotes equity and opportunity for women and their families, using research, philanthropy and policy solutions to make meaningful change.

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