In the Turning Anger into Power class we offer at the Finishing School for Modern Women, we talk about the importance of not labeling emotions as “good” or “bad,” and see them instead as clues that hint at action that needs to be taken. For example: Anger is a catalyst, to spur you into action to go from “Oh, hell no,” to “Now what.” I take what we teach seriously, and work to live my life by our teachings. My anger over what I learned from the statistical data from the Focus Forward presentation by James Chung, was the inspiration I needed to bring together 100 people, women and men, on June 28, 2018 to discuss what we can do collectively to make some changes.
Since our Conversations to Action event, it’s been exciting to see more groups of people coming together to talk about the situation, and what can be done to create change. I went to the Wichita Urban Professionals meeting on July 10th at the Kansas Leadership Center. (Here's a link to the video of their event.) Their focus was “What if I Left Wichita?” It was a lively discussion, centered on diversity and inclusion, with a strong call to action. I had few big take-aways from the evening.
Change doesn’t happen easily, and it won’t be comfortable. It’s going to take some tough, passionate conversations to even get the ball rolling. Not everyone will agree, and some people may even get offended. Being uncomfortable can’t be an excuse to not even try, stopping before we start. As Ed O’Malley, President and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center told us, “Raise the heat!”
We must stop asking for permission. We don’t need anyone’s approval to make changes and we don’t need a leader to step up to lead the charge. Each one of us is responsible for our community and making things better for everyone, not just ourselves, to help our city thrive.
I’ve got to give away the work. When I can do something, I feel like it’s my responsibility to do it. That’ how I get in over my head, working too many hours, not taking care of myself and running myself down. I’ve got to remember it’s not up to me to do everything, to support others in stepping up to do the work, and to ask for, and accept help, when I need it.
These meetings are great beginnings of conversations. Now comes the work - we all must follow through, to do our part. There is no road map for how we’ll make our economy stronger, although we can study what has happened in other cities. A lot of what needs to happen, happens at a governmental level, so it may not feel like it is really within our control to make things better. But there are. I think people need ideas, simple, painless things to do, to make a difference. With all of us working together, we really can make a difference.
The most important concept want you to consider is this:
Saying you “support” someone, or something, without a financial investment, is merely a pat on the head, and doesn’t keep talent in Wichita.
Here are some ideas I’ve been thinking about:
Commit to Pay Equality as a Business Owner.
If you own a business, I challenge you to do a payroll audit. Take a look at what you’re paying your employees. Not only is this a good idea, in general, but it allows you to analyze any inconsistencies in how people are paid in your company. I think differences in pay, can happen by accident sometimes. A new employee starts, and negotiates their compensation. It may be more, or less, than other people in the company, based on experience, knowledge and lots of other factors. It doesn’t mean the company has a bias, however, it’s important to see if there are any patterns that show up, especially between genders and races. Once you know what the reality is, you can plan how you’ll make the correction to pay equality. This will give you big bragging rights, that you can market near and far to let consumers and job hunters know you’re a Modern Company.
Do research to find out how your pay stacks up.
Find out what the going rate of pay is for similar positions, to find out how your pay compares. On the Kansas Department of Labor, you’ll find the Kansas Wage Survey. This spreadsheet shows the rate of pay in nearly any position you can think of, with rates of pay for people who are experienced or just getting started. It is organized by geographic locations, so you can look this information up by city, county, or the entire state. If you’re getting paid less than the wage survey shows, it’s time to come to our Getting What You Want class and prepare to negotiate for a raise!
Women in Government
The very least thing you can do to participate in our community is to VOTE! The voter turnout in the last City Council election in August, 2017 was a pathetic 8.2 percent of registered voters! That doesn’t even count the people that aren’t registered to vote. By taking an active role in the decision process to determine who our government officials are, we can do a lot to make our community better. Not knowing about the candidates is no excuse. It’s too easy to look up online. Register by July 17 to vote in the upcoming primary elections on August 7. (Click here to register online.)
Learn to be an advocate
There are so many ways to get involved. Support people running for public office that you believe in with donations, phone calls, volunteer and any other ways you can. Call your senators and let them know your concerns, even if your political beliefs aren’t the same as your representative. If we don’t call and let them know, they think we like what they’re doing, whether that’s true or not. These calls have helped, and it our civic responsibility to let them know how their constituents want to be represented. Watch your email for a new advocacy panel discussion we’re working on, to help you get more ideas.
Mentorship programs came up a lot in the Conversations to Action brainstorming session. Sharing knowledge with others, and giving advice to people starting out in their careers can be helpful, however it doesn’t always have the impact they’ve hoped for. I’ve found the way this works best, is to let relationships with people who may be mentors grow organically. I’ve seen organizations randomly assign seasoned professional volunteers to “mentor” with younger professionals, and they rarely work, because the relationship just didn’t click. I’ve also found in my own life, that I’ve learned just as much from younger people as I have older ones. I watch for people doing good things in the community and reach out to them, to learn more about what they’re doing. If I click with the person, and think I can help them, I offer to do what I can.
Be a connector.
Most people get opportunities, because they learn about them from other people. Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” This is very true. If you have the power to bring people together and make recommendations, do it! Tell people about job openings you’ve heard about. Write recommendation letters. Go beyond mentoring, to sponsor others who have proven their worth to you, through endorsements to your connections. Open a door for someone who is not able to open it for their themselves.
Women in Entrepreneurship
One of the best, easiest things you can do to support our local economy is to spend your money with locally-owned businesses, even if it costs you a little more to do so. Did you know that spending money with local businesses generates 70 percent more to the local economic activity than large businesses? (Here are more statistics.) I believe in this so much, I started Cash Mob Wichita in 2012, choosing businesses for locals to support and encouraging people to “mob” them on a specific day to spend money. If you want the businesses you love to stay open, you must support them – with money.
Is there a business you love? (Like the Finishing School for Modern Women.) Tell people about it! The number one, most effective way businesses get new customers comes from word-of-mouth. Recommending businesses you love, to people you love, makes you a heroine in so many ways. Better than just telling people about it - actually take someone to the business, or schedule a meeting to connect people who need to do business together. Spread the word far and wide, telling anyone who will listen. Doesn’t cost you a dime, but is a tremendous help to the business.
Leadership in the Workplace
Learn to lead by working on boards and volunteering.
Sometimes it can be challenging to get experience in leadership, especially if you haven’t had any. One of the easiest ways to gain this experience is by volunteering and serving on boards. Nonprofits and professional organizations are desperate to find new board members that really want to do the work. Start on a board as a Member at Large, or other position that’s a small commitment, to see how much more you want to be involved and to prove that you can do it. By showing what you can do, it won’t be long before you’re made the Big Cheese, gaining experience and connections.
Don’t be afraid to lead.
I’m hearing excuses that women aren’t in more leadership positions, because they don’t want to be. I don’t know for sure if this is accurate, or just an excuse, but I do know that if you want to move into a leadership position in the company you work for, let your supervisor know! Ask them what you can be working on now, to earn the chance to move up in the company. Ask advice of other women, and men, that have moved up, to get some pointers.
Britten and I are working on what action we’ll take next, from what we learned at Conversations to Action. We’ve compiled the information, assigned scores based on votes of which ideas people liked the most. (Click here to learn more.) We have some meetings coming up, to plan our next steps. We have so many ideas, we need to organize and prioritize. Stay tuned for more information.
In the meantime, what will you do to make our city stronger?
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