Women's Employment Network

The Women's Employment Network (WEN) was founded in 1986 to assist women in raising their self-esteem and achieving economic independence through sustained employment. Our vision is to advance positive change in the lives of women, their families, and the community, one woman at a time.
Aug 19, 2015

The Evident Need for WEN's Services

Chronic and persistent poverty and unemployment (or under-employment) is a prevalent situation for many of the women WEN serves. Over 80% of WEN clients live in the state of Missouri, where the economic status of women is a real concern. 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.  

WEN clients are not only facing un- or under-employment; they experience gender pay gaps (making 71 cents for every dollar earned by a male in Missouri), child care and transportation conflicts, inadequate health care/insurance, and lack of access to or knowledge of available services and support. Approximately 75% of WEN clients have incomes below the federal poverty level and 40% of WEN clients are the sole provider of income for a household that includes dependent children. Fifty two percent of clients served during 2014-2015 reported a household income of under $10,000 -- less than the current federal poverty guidelines set for a 1-person household, which is $11,770.

Approximately 27% of clients report income between $10,000-$19,000, and 11% report a range of $20,000-$29,000. The remaining 10% have incomes upward of $30,000 per year. The following statistics illustrate the dire economic status of the women WEN serves. Between April 2013 and June 2015:

  • Average FICO credit score was 578, with the lowest score being 416;
  • Average monthly net income was -$333.39, with the lowest net income being -$2,745;
  • Average net worth of -$16,795, with the lowest monthly net worth being -$224,929;
  • 22% of clients who completed a credit report discovered they were completely unscored;
  • The average number of outstanding collections was 5.3, with the average amount of debt in those collections being $8,395.

When we consider these income levels along with the amount of debt held by a WEN client, it's clear that our clients are struggling, and many are losing the fight. Increasing debt makes it difficult to emerge from the cycle of poverty, even after finding employment.

WEN takes a proactive approach in shaping our clients’ future careers and financial stability with a highly personalized program that addresses their talents and challenges on an individualized basis. What we do is bigger than helping women find jobs. At WEN, we help each woman build a set of job search skills that enable her to rebuild her future on a strong new foundation.

May 28, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Coming Full Circle

Marti Kernodle and Phyllis Collins
Marti Kernodle and Phyllis Collins

Volunteers have always been an important element of WEN's mission and goals as an organization. Our ability to effectively serve our clients through their life-changing journeys has touched the lives of hundreds of volunteers who have served WEN over the years. The impact WEN has on our volunteers is illustrated in this month's volunteer spotlight of Marti Kernodle and Phyllis Collins.

Marti Kernodle began volunteering at WEN in 2010, presenting diversity workshops to the clients. Marti had been associated with the Women's Business Center and, during her volunteer tenure at WEN, she presented "Workplace Diversity: Appreciating Differences" and "Decoding Generational Differences in the Workplace" workshops.

Marti says "I truly believe that what keeps WEN going is their great staff and their great group of volunteers. In knowing that, I was always looking for other good people to add to the depth of the volunteer base." In her quest to deliver fresh, relevant volunteers to the organization, she immediately thought of Phyllis Collins. Marti knew Phyllis to be a great trainer, speaker, leader and dear friend. In order to introduce Phyllis to WEN, she invited her to the 2010 WEN luncheon as her special guest.

According to Phyllis, "My good friend Marti Kernodle invited me to the WEN Luncheon in 2010 and said, 'I think you need to take a look at this organization'. She believed that the same personal development training and coaching I provided my business clients could be provided to the clients at WEN - to help women transform their lives at a time when they needed it most". During the luncheon, Marti introduced Phyllis to Lynnette Williams and Sherry Turner. Two months later, Phyllis began to volunteer at WEN by facilitating a workshop called "Facing Your Fears & Winning Your Inner Game". It was a volunteer match made in heaven for Phyllis, who says "I get to witness the continual transformation of the WEN clientele and hear about their successes following the program. Four years later, I was honored to become a WEN Board Member. In 2015, to thank Marti for her introduction to this organization, I invited her to be my special guest at the luncheon."

Women's Employment Network is extremely thankful for all its volunteers and friends that spread the word about our good works in our community. Thanks to our Global Giving donors, WEN can continue these good works and keep helping women help themselves.

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Mar 3, 2015

Financial Coaching Affects Shifts in Women's Behavior

Credit card debt, accounts in collection and regular use of "payday loans" or other predatory lending companies is a big problem for many of the women that WEN serves. A great majority of WEN clients try to "keep up" by making small payments here and there to keep themselves afloat or just to keep the heat or water turned on in their homes. They know that their financial problems are beyond the scope of cutting expenses here and there, but don't have the knowledge or tools to get themselves out of their never-ending cycle of debt. Many women get to the point that their minimum payments on credit cards are only covering late payment fees, or are purely interest. Staying in this cycle all but ensures that their ability to get out of debt slips further away each month, and that the balance they owe will never decrease. Long-term unemployment and underemployment exacerbate already critical financial situations by fostering a reliance on credit cards and predatory lending. Increasing debt makes it difficult to emerge from the cycle of poverty even after finding employment, if the worker's paychecks must be directed toward loan repayments with high interest rates. Teaching financial literacy helps individuals move away from living paycheck to paycheck and toward developing a long-term plan for financial stability.

While WEN's programs have always included an element of financial literacy, the hiring of a full-time Financial Coach and addition of Financial Coaching and Credit Building to WEN's curriculum was a major development in our efforts to support all areas of clients' financial growth. WEN is now able to provide measurable, long-term support for clients as they overcome financial challenges. The Financial Coach meets individually with each client to determine financial goals and define an individualized game plan for clients to reduce their debt, build assets, and establish or repair their credit. WEN's program offerings are uniquely structured to meet the varying needs and skill levels of women in all stages of un- and under-employment. And, by regularly meeting with the Financial Coach, the clients learn how to transform their financial behaviors and shift their money management priorities. One of the great advantages to the Financial Coaching program is that behavioral shifts are often immediate, once clients are given the knowledge and tools. Therefore, the connection between action and effect (reward) reinforces the client's dedication to budgeting behaviors and debt management.

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