Grantee Spotlight

WEN’s Co-Founders – Beth K. Smith & Marjorie Powell Allen

Women’s Employment Network was founded in 1986 with the goal of helping women, especially the long-term underemployed, transition back into the workforce and become economically self-sufficient. Founded by legendary Kansas City leaders, Marjorie Powell Allen and Beth K. Smith, WEN’s mission is to help women raise their self-esteem and achieve economic independence through sustained employment. WEN’s vision is to advance positive change in the lives of women, their families and the community, one woman at a time. With the involvement and support of hundreds of volunteers and donors, WEN has grown from a single classroom at Pioneer College to a ten thousand square foot facility that served over 700 women last year alone. Over the last three decades, WEN has continued to work toward the mission and vision of its founders and has played an important role in the professional growth of Kansas City women.

1986- WEN’s first graduating class

Chronic and persistent poverty and unemployment (or under-employment) is common for many of the women WEN serves. In January 2015, a report released by the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy found that, out of the 950,000 Missourians living in poverty, 55% are women (80% of WEN clients are from Missouri). Additionally, weekly earnings for women in Missouri are only 77% of the median salary earned by their male counterparts. On average, women in the US spend 11 years out of the workforce taking care of family, costing an average of $659,139 in lifetime earnings.

WEN helps women learn how to overcome their personal and professional barriers and experience a holistic curriculum that changes their lives, not just their résumés. Women who come to WEN face a variety of challenges to securing employment, including homelessness or unstable housing, finding and affording childcare, insufficient or non-existent medical or mental health care, limited means of transportation, substance abuse and recovery, and domestic violence.

Lynnette teaching class

WEN takes a proactive approach in shaping women’s future careers and financial stability with a personalized program, addressing their talents and challenges on an individualized basis. WEN’s strategic approach promotes the overall economic wellness of the women we serve, concentrating on helping them build pathways for securing livable-wage jobs. In addition, WEN provides credit-building tools and financial education that support clients as they strive to reach long-term financial stability.

The cornerstone of WEN’s programming is the Signature Employment Preparation and Career Transition Program, offered eight times throughout the year. Our intensive curriculum helps women learn more about their strengths and hone their skill sets, as well as create effective résumés and set career goals. While WEN’s activities have always been centered on helping women find work, there is much more involved in economic wellness than just employment. In recent years, WEN has made significant strides in programming and operations, strengthening its programs and creating new services for women in the Greater Kansas City area.

2018 – Alumnae Holiday Party

WEN constantly shifts to support the needs of our clients, adding services and innovative to improve sustainable outcomes for women in the Greater Kansas City area. As a Financial Opportunity Center (FOC), WEN uses a nationally recognized three pronged approach that combines employment placement and career improvement, financial education and coaching, and public benefits access. Leveraging community partnerships and our One KC for Women alliance partners to grow and expand our deliverables, WEN is providing services that help address socio-economic barriers and create permanent solutions. With 50% of our workforce employing women, single parenting at an all-time high, women creating businesses at two times the rate of men and minority women at 6 times the national rate, WEN is at the forefront for providing women with a multi-faceted approach to securing a stable financial future.

Close to 75% of WEN clients have incomes below the federal poverty level and 40% of clients are the sole provider of income for a household that includes dependent children. Fifty two percent (52%) of clients served during the 2015-2016 program year reported a household income of under $10,000 (less than the current federal poverty guidelines set for a one-person household, which is $11,770). The average net income of WEN clients is currently -$333.39 every month. Women who come to WEN often lack the latest essential skills in a professional workplace and find themselves competing against candidates with more recent experience. The unique structure of WEN’s program was designed to meet the varying needs and skill levels of women in all stages of employment, including the unemployed, underemployed, laid off, new to the job market, or those seeking to re-enter the workplace. Finding sustained employment greatly helps the economic situations of women and their families, but understanding how to manage finances and address debt allows them to achieve financial security and prevent future struggles.

Visit WEN’s website to learn more.