LAWRENCE — Mayor Sly James, Kansas City, Mo., announced last month the new WE Women’s Empowerment initiative to get more women into leadership roles, whether it’s on city boards, task forces and commissions or in business settings.
University of Kansas research will play a crucial role in the initiative through a $23,000 research grant awarded from the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
Barbara Kerr, the Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology in the School of Education, received the grant from the Women’s Foundation to conduct research and analysis that will underpin the mayor’s initiative. Kerr’s efforts included survey and focus group research designed to gather women’s attitudes and opinions — data the mayor’s office and its partners will use to improve gender equity and diversity on task forces and commissions, and to drive recruitment strategies, as part of the initiative.
“Mayor James has an ambitious plan to ensure Kansas City is an inclusive, diverse organization that supports the recruitment of women from different backgrounds to task forces, boards and commissions,” Kerr said. “I’m thrilled that the Women’s Foundation recruited me to do this research, and it’s exciting to know that KU will play a role in an initiative aimed at engaging women across Kansas City in local government. This is exactly the type of engaged scholarship for public impact we strive to do at KU.”
Kerr will present her research findings at the WE Women’s Empowerment Initiative reception Monday, April 21, at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Speakers include Wendy Doyle, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation, as well as James and the chancellor.
As a result of the positive experience with Kerr, the Women’s Foundation is now exploring a range of other potential collaborative projects with various KU units. Potential projects include lectures, conferences and sponsored research similar to Kerr’s project.
“We sought out the University of Kansas because they had the expertise needed to help the Women’s Foundation best inform Mayor Sly James and the WE initiative on boards, task forces and commissions,” Doyle said. “This strategic partnership aligns perfectly with both organizations’ objectives, and more importantly, it will provide tremendous value for the people of Missouri and Kansas.”