A Conversation with Wendy Doyle
Wendy Doyle is the CEO of Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, an organization that promotes equity and opportunity for women of all ages. She is an inspiring woman, both professionally and personally, and it’s an honor to have her as a friend and loyal client.
Interview by Susan Cannon; photos by Galadriel Thompson; makeup by Kate Norton
It’s refreshing to meet women who are powerful and gentle at the same time. Wendy Doyle is one of these women. She defies the typical notion of women at the top by being human while focused and effective.
To say that she possesses kindness and generosity to match her intelligence and intuition is an understatement. Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you there’s not a trace of hubris there, just a genuine youthful spirit, graciousness, no-nonsense smarts ... and great style.
Q. You've been an amazing supporter of Asiatica and have quite a collection of Asiatica pieces. We would like to know what it is that you like and value in our clothing.
A. The clothing at Asiatica is beautifully made. I also find value in the one-of-kind pieces. Finally, women supporting women is important to me. A woman-owned business with women employees makes the investment extra special.
One of Doyle’s first projects upon taking the reins of the Women’s Foundation in late 2013 was to elevate the image of the non-profit organization. The modern rebranding is seemingly only superseded by the dedication, hard work and positive results the Women’s Foundation continually achieves under her tireless leadership.
Wendy, we want to shed more light on the important work you do at Women’s Foundation, so thanks very much for letting us pick your brain a bit.
Q. Why did you feel it was important to give Women’s Foundation an image boost and how has this rebranding helped the organization?
A. We wanted to make sure the Women’s Foundation’s visual identity reflected not only our mission and core values, but also the fearless determination and empowerment that women demonstrate each and every day in their daily lives. Our rebranding project – led by the outstanding team at Design Ranch – has helped us send a strong message about who we are, what we believe and how we’re working to promote equity and opportunity for women of all ages.
Q. You’re a champion of women, and it’s clear that you’re a strong businesswoman and leader. Were you always an advocate of female rights growing up, and did you imagine yourself playing a role like this when you were young?
A. Like many women I’m proud to come from a long line of inspiring, accomplished women. My mother lit my internal flame to work for change, and her lessons guide me every day. My mother shattered a glass ceiling, but it began with her mother. In the early 1950’s, my grandmother owned her own accounting practice and gained the respect of women and men alike.
Their lessons taught me to be a force for good and fostered a responsibility to gather accurate facts, identify solutions, and build support for change in order to make a positive impact for women and their families.
They also inspired me to prepare the path for others and empower other women to be forces for change in the future.
Q. Please tell us about your road to becoming the CEO of Women’s Foundation.
A. My career path began in the for-profit sector working for a corporate public relations firm and it was my mentor at that firm who encouraged me to consider a career in nonprofit.
I’ve worked in the sector for many years and really dedicated my career to leaving things better than I found them – especially for women. Joining the Women’s Foundation was the opportunity of a lifetime – the culmination of so much of the work that I’d done, how I was raised, the role models that I have looked up to, and the work to empower and inspire women.
Q. You’ve created a lot of excitement and awareness with new projects you’ve implemented to the organization’s agenda. Can you briefly describe some of these and also tell us about the results that are bettering women’s lives?
A. The Women’s Foundation is spearheading a number of initiatives that are moving the needle and promoting greater equity and opportunity for women across the region. Throughout, our approach is based on using research and data to identify the issues women are facing and develop solutions that achieve real results. These projects set the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation apart from the other national Women’s Foundations.
- Civic engagement. Four years ago, we created the Appointments Project to increase the gender diversity of state and local boards and commissions. Based on a first-of-its-kind study on the barriers to women’s civic engagement, the response has been overwhelming, with more than 87 women appointed to public boards and commissions since 2014.
- Sexual harassment. As long as sexual harassment exists and is enabled the workplace or anywhere else, it presents a barrier for women to advance professionally and to lead in the future. Women's Foundation developed recommendations for preventing and combating sexual harassment in the Kansas Legislature, and collaborated with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and Partners in Prevention to develop an Intern Resource Portal. The portal is designed to help interns, employees and employers understand how to best prevent and report sexual harassment.
- Research. Our groundbreaking research has made the Women’s Foundation a trusted resource for data and information about the issues facing women and families in the region. Our research has helped bring much-needed attention to the social, economic and health-related disparities that women continue to face – and more importantly, they’ve helped us identify evidence-based solutions to address them.
- Advocating. We’re also advocating for women in both the Missouri and Kansas state capitals, ramping up our advocacy program and becoming a trusted resource for legislators in both parties. This year we scored a major win when the Missouri General Assembly passed our bill to implement comprehensive occupational licensing reforms that will make it easier for women to start their own businesses and pursue more flexible careers.
- Paid leave. The United States is the only developed country in the world without a nationwide paid leave program, and we know that the lack of paid leave leaves too many women – and men – having to choose between caring for their loved ones and keeping their paychecks. Today, thanks to our work with leaders on both sides of the aisle, employees of nearly every state agency in Missouri have access to paid leave.
Q. What are some challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?
A. Women continue to face a multitude of barriers – and that means we have to be a multi-issue organization, and work some long hours in the process!
Q. With the recent watershed moment of men being held accountable for their actions, thus allowing women’s voices to finally be heard, has this created an easier path to pushing policy and passing legislation?
A. The #MeToo movement has been a pivotal moment for our country, which is leading to long-overdue changes in our workplaces and in the halls of power. Here in this region, we’ve been heartened by the willingness of leaders from both parties to work with us and tackle these challenges head on.
Now the key is to keep that momentum going, and make sure that women continue to band together to push for positive change.
Now about style. Doyle has it in abundance. Her modern fashion sensibility not only catches the eyes of women here, but unexpected props have come from colleagues and politicians working on the national stage. During a recent luncheon in front of a 2,000+ audience, three of the high-profile speakers gave shout outs about her chic style before bestowing kudos for her achievements. This tells you something.
Q. You emit such a strong sense of self in your vision for WF and the way you dress and present yourself. At what point do you think you came into this confidence in order to express yourself with such originality?
A. All of our experiences lead us to this current moment in time. I would have to say that my vision and style is a combination of a long road. However, what I appreciate most about the present day is there’s a greater acceptance of trying new things and of style as a form of self-expression.
Q. Can you recall a moment when fashion or style resonated with you for the first time?
A. Most definitely it was my mother’s encouragement. Beginning in middle school every Sunday, together we would plan the outfits for the week. It was an opportunity for me to try things but really it was about streamlining and being organized for the week. From my mother’s perspective, it was quality time.
Q. It seems clear that you’re a disciplined person. I’m curious what it is that you first focus on when you get up in the morning and how you prepare for your day?
A. First thing is to make a list of the top 3 priorities for the day and then to review the calendar. Secondly, I want to know what is trending in the media headlines so I catch up on the news.
Q. What’s in your regime that you can’t do without?
A. Sleep. It is essential.
Q. This last question may be tricky as we know how immersed you are in your current work, but do you envision a larger goal to work toward in the future, perhaps in politics or work in another city?
A. I get this question a lot so thank you for asking it. What I am doing right now is challenging and fulfilling. There’s no way to predict the future, but I do know that I will always be advocating for and championing women – regardless of what else the future holds!
Thank you so much for your time, Wendy!