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When Women Lead

In my bio, describing who I am in 50 words or less, I include the phrase “zealous volunteer.” I include this because It’s a big part of who I am. I clearly don’t know how to say “no.” Even though we have a class about this at the Finishing School, sometimes the best answer is “yes.” I said “yes” to be the Chair of the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and on the Board of Trustees, because I’ve been a big fan of the museum since I was a youngster and want to lend my hand and brainpower to an institution I love. It didn’t hurt that I would have the chance to work with Patricia McDonnell, the Executive Director of WAM, a leader that I respect, admire, and knew I could learn from.

I also had to say “yes,” when Denise Sherman asked me to co-chair the Know Your Worth Women’s Leadership conference. The mission to help women know their worth, and own their power, was exactly aligned with my mission and beliefs. The incredible women I’d be working with in addition to Denise, like Christina Long, owner of CML Creative and Founder of Create Campaign, and Julia Fabris McBride, the Vice President of the Kansas Leadership Center, sealed the deal.

In the Saying “No” class, we talk about when it’s important to say “yes.” It includes a check list of questions to ask yourself when trying to decide to take on another project. A couple that are the most important to me are “What do I most want to learn from this experience?” and “What will I gain from doing this?” We often think volunteering needs be to something completely altruistic, spending our scarce spare time giving to others without any expectations of how it might benefit us. I’ve started to look at this differently.

I’m busy enough and my time is precious, so for me to spend time on projects, they have to take me closer to my goals or have some other kind of benefit. At this point in my life, I’ve also decided that for me to invest in friendships, they have to be relationships that give as much as they take. Why shouldn’t the same be true with how I volunteer my time?I’ve spent much of my life in relationships where I’ve given until it hurts, and when I ask for something I need, it isn’t reciprocated. I’m done with that.

So, when I heard the Women’s Foundation in Kansas City were planning to bring their Appointments Project training to Wichita, I was interested to see what they had to say about saying “yes.” Especially since I had a decision to make. I had just been asked to serve on the Innovation Committee for the strategic plan for Wichita State University and wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on one more thing.

I learned more about the Women’s Foundation and meet Wendy Doyle, the President and CEO of this organization in September, when she came to town to be the keynote speaker at the Know Your Worth conference. Started in Kansas City in 1991, this nonprofit is dedicated to promoting equity and opportunity for the economic well-being of women and their families. The Women’s Foundation has done extensive research to get a better understanding of the issues women face today, to pinpoint barriers to success, and figure out how to make lasting changes that are measurable. (Here is the research for Kansas, but I warn you – it takes a strong stomach to digest these facts.)

They do lots of great work on issues important to women of all ages, like wage equity and helping change public policies affecting women. One of the ways they’re working to change policy, is by helping women become better represented in the places that create them. They do this through the Appointments Project, helping women get appointed to civic boards and commissions that match their interests. By having more women in these positions, we get a stronger voice to start conversations about the barriers and work towards creating solutions.

To get started, simply go to the Appointments Project website, fill out a form and submit your resume. From there, they can help you research which boards and committees fit you best, and once approved, you’ll be part of their talent database they can refer when they’re told of opportunities. While the live meeting to learn more about how this works in Wichita has past, there is a webinar training on Tuesday, November 27th at noon for a half hour. Here’s a link to register.

Of course, you don’t have to go through the Women’s Foundation to get on one of these boards. You can apply yourself by researching which boards have openings. Here are the vacant advisory board positions on the City of Wichita website. Although, since the Women’s Foundation doesn’t charge anything to help, why not take advantage of their expertise, experience and connections?

Because I’m excited about working to make measurable changes in issues that affect women, I’m excited to get signed up with the Appointments Project and looking towards the next board I’ll serve on when I step down as Chair of FWAM next March. While I love nonprofits and what they do for society, I’m on a mission to help women own their power. From reading about we fought for the right to vote, it’s become clear to me that the way to make things better, is by having a voice in the spaces where policies are being made. Besides, maybe I want to run for office someday?

Have you thought about giving your time, experience and expertise, but don’t know where to start? Maybe serving on a government board doesn’t do it for you? While the Appointments Project is for those kinds of committees, there are lots of other ways to get involved in the community. Believe me, there isn’t a nonprofit organization in town that isn’t looking for people who want to get involved! You don’t even have to commit to being on a board to do it. Volunteering for limited or one-time events can be a blast. Great way to get out of the house, meet new people, and get the warm fuzzy feelings you get from volunteering. Check out Volunteer Kansas for all kinds of opportunities based on your interests.

Not only are you doing something good for others when you volunteer, you’re also getting the chance to refine skills you may not get the chance to do through your job. Serving in a leadership position in a volunteer organization is a way for you to try on those skills, so you can learn to be a better boss lady. The best part of being the Chair of a board is that you have an entire executive board, along with past Chairs to help mentor, advise you, and help make decisions, so you’re not all alone at the top, like it can feel when you get promoted at a J. O. B.. The good decisions I’ve made as Chair of the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum has been because of the advice of everyone on the board, and I am grateful for their support.

If you’re thinking, “I couldn’t possibly do anything like that!” I ask you, why not? You have everything you need right now to do this. You can learn about what the organization does and form intelligent opinions and plans for actions. I know this is true, because I’ve seen you do it in Finishing School classes! Learning to speak our truth is a big part of owning our power, and your truth is just as important as anyone else’s. So, take a risk. Get out there. Do something!

By the way, of course I said “yes” to the Innovation Committee.

You are mighty!

Headmistress Jill

P. S. My brother’s thyroid turned out to be benign, so no radiation boy for him! Hooray!

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