From the everyday to the extraordinary, this series will put a focus on the people who make this city tick.
We reached out to women in a variety of industries to find out how Wichita's female professionals feel their city treats them and their colleagues. Learn what these six women had to say about the opportunities Wichita is creating for women in business, as well as those our city is missing.
Managing Partner at Bothner and Bradley, Inc.
Bradley came to Wichita to pursue a journalism degree at Wichita State University. She then worked in newspapers in both Kansas and California before returning to Wichita.
"When I look around tables where decisions are made about the future of businesses or the community, white men are still in the driver’s seats. This doesn’t represent the diversity in our community, and that gets in the way of us making more meaningful progress toward growing our economy."
"We need more women and minorities in the CEO positions — or really in any C-suite positions. We have many strong women leaders, some of whom have started their own companies or run nonprofit organizations. And that is great. But when you look at the organizational charts of our large employers, it is still unusual to see a woman or minority in a position that can have impact in any meaningful way. Even our elected officials at the local and state level sadly don’t represent the diversity that makes up our community. Until we change that, we won’t see the acceleration of innovation and growth that comes when everyone has a voice in making things happen."
Dr. Elizabeth King
President and CEO of the Wichita State University Foundation
Dr. King and her husband, a native of Hesston, KS, moved to Wichita in 1989.
"What I hear most often is there are fewer women in the highest positions in our city — business, government and education — and there is a shortage of role models and mentors."
"A colleague of mine said that women in Wichita will know this issue is resolved when successful women are simply referred to as 'leaders,' not 'women leaders.' On the positive, I think great progress has been made over the past decade. There is significantly more encouragement and understanding of women who are choosing to have both a career and a family. Women should be hired and promoted based solely on their abilities, experience and potential and not based on trying to fulfill a quota. To achieve this, there needs to continue to be opportunities for training, professional development and mentoring for women."
Mary Beth Jarvis
President and CEO of Wichita Festivals, Inc.
Jarvis came to Wichita in 1994, when she and her husband — both captains in the U.S. Air Force — were transferred from New York.
"I see lots of opportunity in Wichita. Across many industry sectors, within big companies or small ones, at education institutions or nonprofit organizations, you can find chances to learn and grow and contribute."
"The convenience of life here makes an enormous difference. There’s no way I could have effectively fulfilled my responsibilities as a professional and a mom for the past 22 years if precious hours each week were wasted commuting or sitting in traffic. However, I think there are other cities that better embrace the variety of life choices women make. We can do better, in my opinion, at ensuring women feel welcomed and valued without getting hung up on what box they’re in — married vs. single, kids vs. no kids or working vs. stay-at-home."
Owner and Principle Consultant at CML Collective
Long is a Wichita native who says she has fallen in love with the opportunity to make positive changes within the city.
"I’ve been pleased with the ability to reinvent myself here, professionally, several times over. I was a former reporter with The Wichita Eagle, I’ve led Wichita Public Schools’ Family Engagement Office and I’ve been able to launch my own graphic and design company."
"Wichita workplaces need to understand — and not consciously or subconsciously punish — women who are working mothers. The punishments come in the form of being overlooked for raises or promotions because a working mother has children to help raise and can’t always work extended hours, meet-up for happy hours or go on out-of-town trips compared to others in her workplace. They come in the form of the bothered looks for unexpected daycare crises or having a sick child and being denied an opportunity to work from home."
Léah Sakr Lavender
Talent Specialist at the Greater Wichita Partnership
Lavender moved to Wichita from San Francisco over the summer with her husband — a Wichita native — after learning of some of the new city initiatives.
"I’ve been fortunate to live in major cities on four different continents. Here, we need to continue to work toward being a place that values quality of life and diversity. We need to invest in a variety of amenities and promote career opportunities. It is encouraging to see initiatives such as the Pop-Up Park, bike lanes, Final Friday and One Million Cups.
"For women, more specifically, I believe the community needs to continue being proactive by inviting women to participate in this discussion. We need to bring all the voices to the table to help shape our future."
Owner of the Monarch
Ray is a Wichita native who moved to Oklahoma City in her early 20s. She came back to Wichita two years later, realizing then that Wichita has more to offer than she initially realized.
"As a woman, I have never felt that things would be easier for me somewhere else. What good would that do? Wichita is full of opportunities if you are looking for them."
"This is not just an issue for Wichita, but for the country as a whole. Despite the fact that it is 2017, women are still struggling with balancing careers while being able to take care of their families. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Wichita-based companies used female-friendly benefits as a way to recruit. Flexible hours, the ability to work from home when needed, longer maternity leave and on-site child-care are becoming more and more important as women are looking for careers."