Advocates highlight issues of child care, family leave for women in Kansas and beyond

Leaders of two women’s nonprofits sat down for the Kansas Reflector Podcast

By: and - May 22, 2023 9:00 am

Wendy Doyle leads United WE, a nonprofit focused on empowering women in business and civic leadership. Doyle and Jen Earle, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners appeared on the Kansas Reflector Podcast. (Justina Kellner/submitted)

The “women’s bill of rights” passed by Kansas legislators bans transgender women from sharing bathrooms, prison facilities, domestic violence centers and other gender-specific spaces with cis women.

The law looks nothing like what Wendy Doyle would like to see in a bill of rights for Kansas women.

Doyle, president and CEO of United WE, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for women in business and civic leadership, said her women’s bill of rights would include family leave, lowering barriers for women to open businesses and ensuring affordable child care.

“I feel like women have made significant progress,” Doyle said in an interview for Kansas Reflector’s podcast. “However, the pandemic really highlighted and put a beacon on the challenges that women are facing certainly in the workplace, also with the child care challenge as a result of the pandemic.”

Doyle and Jen Earle, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners, sat down with editor Sherman Smith for the podcast interview.

Doyle’s organization, based in Kansas City, Missouri, advocates for better opportunities for women. It pursues causes such as reducing child care deserts by reducing licensing requirements for Kansans hoping to open facilities and establishing an office of entrepreneurship in the Kansas Department of Commerce. She said United WE supported legislation that would have allowed candidates for office to use campaign contributions for child care and family caregiving services.

Last month, United WE and the National Association of Women Business Owners launched a partnership to “educate and empower women to serve in civic leadership,” according to the announcement.

According to United WE’s research in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame and Tulane University, women make up less than half of civic board appointments. Some cities have zero or just one woman on 75% of their boards and commissions.

Through the groups’ partnership, women in business can access webinars to prepare them for those local appointments.

Earle said the partnership gives both groups the opportunity to expand their reaches. She said her organization, the National Association of Women Business Owners, aims to put women in power in social, economic and political spheres.

“With this partnership, we can make stronger business owners, which are going to make stronger economies,” Earle said.

Some of the most significant issues to both organizations are paid family leave and child care.

Doyle said the pandemic showed access to child care is a huge issue for retaining workers.

As COVID shut down schools and child care facilities, women were forced out of the workforce disproportionately to meet their families’ needs at home.

This year, Doyle said, the Kansas Legislature “created a conversation” about how to help women.

“But there’s always more work to do,” she said.

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.

Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.