Helping Women - Employment & Economic Independence

by Women's Employment Network
WEN Alumnae at Annual Holiday Party
WEN Alumnae at Annual Holiday Party

WEN serves a broad spectrum of women throughout the Kansas City metro area who are unemployed, under-employed, new to the workforce, or seeking to re-enter the workplace. Women must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent. Approximately 75% of WEN clients have incomes below the federal poverty level. Likewise, women who come to WEN face a variety of challenges to securing employment, including homelessness or unstable housing, finding and affording childcare, insufficient or nonexistent medical or mental health care, limited means of transportation, substance abuse and recovery, and domestic violence.

As we move into 2017, the economic future of our clients remains more uncertain than ever. Fortunately, over the past several years, WEN has worked diligently to stregthen our Financial Coaching services. In November of 2013, WEN was designated as a Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Financial Opportunity Center (FOC). Using the nationally recognized and highly acclaimed Financial Opportunity Center model, WEN's program is one of only four in the metropolitan area. Our Financial Coaches work with clients to change their financial behavior in a way that encourages them to make a long-term commitment to increasing monthly net income, credit building, and acquisition of assets. By stabilizing family incomes, we are helping to stabilize our urban neighborhoods and ultimately affect and benefit the entire community.

Our financial coaches provide:

  • Individualized, one-on-one financial coaching, meeting the client where they are, and focused on short-term and long-term goals as it relates to personal finances. 
  • Support in developing a personal spending plan, including consistent monitoring, review, and accountability.

  • Access to credit building tools, credit counseling, and credit dispute resolution. 

2015-2016 Financial Coaching Outcomes:

In 2015, WEN began providing financial education workshops and one-on-one financial coaching to community members in conjunction with the Kansas City Public Library. Targeted community members included: women of diverse groups, immigrants, and adults ages 55 and over. WEN began delivering financial workshops through the Kansas City Public Library system. Curriculum for five separate financial workshops includes: Budgeting, Banking Basics, Credit, Payday Loans, and Identity Theft. Outcomes include:

  • 180 Financial coaching clients
  • 21 coaching clients each month
  • 44 participants decreased their outstanding collections
  • 53 participants improved credit score
Volunteers Help with Mock Interviews
Volunteers Help with Mock Interviews
WEN Graduation- December 2016
WEN Graduation- December 2016


WEN Graduating Class 282
WEN Graduating Class 282

WEN takes a proactive approach in shaping our clients’ future careers 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. WEN provides women with the tools they need to stand up on their own two feet, find and secure employment, and to become self-reliant, productive and financially self-sufficient.

Leslie's Story

Leslie H. came to the Women's Employment Network in May 2015. While completing WEN's signature five week program, Leslie became inspired to get her finances in order. She met with WEN's dedicated staff of Financial Literacy Specialists over the course of several weeks, and together they made the goal of increasing her credit score. After setting specific financial benchmarks, in November 2015 Leslie was able to pay down a portion of her debt and bring up her credit score by 44 points. She was also able to receive a credit card subsidy in December 2015. Recently, Leslie's credit was checked again in September 2016, it had risen by another 50 points. In 16 months her score has grown by a total of 94 points. Leslie has accomplished this amazing feat all while supporting four children and a tight budget. With the help of WEN's Financial Literacy Specialists, Leslie has been diligent to stay within the usage guidelines and pays on time every month, and is now on the road to long-term financial stability.

Leslie's story is a familiar one at the Women's Employment Network. A woman, struggling to make ends meet, and supporting a family, finds the strength, resources, and support from the WEN staff to work towards, and achieve, her personal goals and objectives. For 30 years, WEN has been improving the lives of women in Kansas City with our job training and, more recently, our financial literacy programs. Using a nationally recognized Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model providing employment placement and career improvement, WEN continues to transform the way women like Leslie find careers, manage finances, and support their families.

In the 2015-2016 program year:

  • 5 8-week intensive training sessions were held
  • 143 jobs were reported
  • 721 women were provided employment-related services
  • 180 women received financial education and credit building assistance
  • 53 women increased their credit score
  • 44 women decreased their number of outstanding collections
  • 25 women  increased their net worth

Every gift to the Women’s Employment Network  from Global Giving donors is a gift of hope . Without the generosity of individuals, we would not be able to support women in Kansas City at our current capacity. To help more women like Leslie achieve financial independence, we rely on the generosity of our friends and supporters to deliver our life changing programs and services. Thank you to everyone who supported Leslie through your donations, and the many women to come!

WEN Graduating Class 283
WEN Graduating Class 283
Workshop Presented by WEN Volunteer
Workshop Presented by WEN Volunteer
Community Volunteers Assist with Resumes
Community Volunteers Assist with Resumes
WEN Board Member Presenting Community Workshop
WEN Board Member Presenting Community Workshop


Lynnette Williams, Director of Program Services
Lynnette Williams, Director of Program Services

Lynnette Williams, Director of Program Services, has become the "secret sauce" of Women's Employment Network (WEN), and if you ask any client, graduate, volunteer, Board or staff member, they will tell you why. Celebrating her 25th year at WEN, you can imagine the impact Lynnette has had on our program deliverables, her co-workers, our board of directors, our executive directors and of course the many WEN clients’ lives she has affected in her years of service. Lynnette has seen WEN through several locations, staff changes, and of course, impacted the lives of thousands of clients whom she has helped gain confidence and the tools they need to stand up on their own two feet.  

"Lynnette has the most genuine way of addressing extremely difficult and painful circumstances of our clients lives,” said Sherry Turner, WEN President. "She was once where they are and found the tools and resources needed to start over."

In 1990, at a difficult time in her life, Lynnette was introduced to WEN as a client. After completing the WEN program and becoming attached to her mentor Evonne McCay, she secured employment with The Full Employment Council. Lynnette decided to then volunteer at WEN and deliver her personal testimony to clients. For the next year, she served our clients by paying it forward in a volunteer capacity. She was approached by WEN staff when the position of Job Readiness Instructor became available. What you really need to know is that at Lynnette's own client graduation from WEN, she actually told the instructor that she could do her job. And, so...the rest is history. We are so fortunate that Lynnette chose the Women's Employment Network.

Lynnette is now, and has been for many years, WEN’s "secret sauce". Referred to affectionately and with professionalism by our clients as....'Miss Lynnette'. Alumni of our WEN services at times will track her down for counsel or perhaps run her over with a grocery cart just to say Hi!

Lynnette has inspired thousands of women and conducted 209 graduation classes. She is inspirational and compassionate, she will challenge you to be your best self, and she never lets you say I can’t. She is a mentor, a leader and a friend. 

Lynnette in the classroom
Lynnette in the classroom


In 1986, two Kansas City philanthropists and visionaries, Beth K. Smith and Marjorie Powell Allen, had a profound idea of how to “help women help themselves”. Together, they worked to form Women’s Employment Network (WEN). 

WEN was founded to help women who are trapped in the cycle of poverty effectively transition into jobs that will allow them to achieve economic stability. With a focus on self-esteem and personal responsibility, WEN serves women from all walks of life and all ages who are: unemployed, underemployed, affected by job layoffs and outsourcing, those who are new to or returning to the job market, and displaced homemakers. After 30 years, WEN is proud to continue serving women in Kansas City. Here is an example of one woman who benefited from WEN's programs. Her story is only one example of the impact WEN has on the community. 

At WEN's recent 30th Anniversary luncheon, our client keynote speaker, Amanda, shared her story about overcoming homelessness and other barriers to employment. She discussed how she found the strength to move forward and ultimately finding her way to success. Excerpts from her story are outlined below.  

"During a particularly bad day of Army training, the kind of day you wonder why you enlisted to begin with, a crusty old Sergeant offered some words of advice. He said, “Soldier, you can be better or you can be bitter. Either way it starts by embracing your challenges.” And she did just that.

"I began to understand and embrace the idea that we have to go through the tragedy, the abuse, and the tough situations to find our stronger selves. I would like to say that I immediately began to embrace the challenges in my life but with all great lessons learned, time must pass." 

"As time passed, the obstacles in my life became overwhelming, to the point that radical change was my only option. I finally began the difficult journey of transitioning out of an abusive marriage finding myself divorced, homeless, unemployed and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which now requires me to use a service dog. Despite my years of experience as a freelance journalist, professional photographer, published author, veteran status and recently completing my Bachelor's degree in English, no one seemed to want to hire me. I applied for over 100 positions across the country and even in Europe, only to receive the same answer-if any answer- you’re experience is compelling but we’ve hired someone else. I felt myself losing hope, until the lesson finally stuck, I could get better or I could get bitter. I embraced my challenges."

"With a little discipline, the security of full-time employment, and a lot of luck I will write that book or better still those books. I have gone from homeless to hired, all because I learned how to be a good employee from WEN and because I embraced my challenges, allowing them to make me better, not bitter."

Today, WEN is pleased to share that Amanda found her dream job as a professional editor, working on behalf of the military.

For women and families who have struggled to make ends meet, a secure job is the first step toward financial stability. But, it’s only the first step. As a Financial Opportunity Center (FOC), WEN now provides long-term, one-on-one financial coaching to help take a client out of a downward spiral. During the 2014-2015 fiscal year:



In the 60-minute Banking Basics workshop, clients find out how to choose a bank (or credit union), learn about banking tools in your management, and how to balance a checkbook.

The Credit workshop teaches ou how to: select a credit card, understand FICO scoring models, read acredit report and make a positive impact on credit.

Thirteen workshops have already been conducted since September 2015. Outcomes from these workshops so far include:


Three satisfaction questions were also asked at the conclusion of each workshop. The participants found the instructor's knowledge and presentation style to be fantastic, and thought that the handouts were extremely helpful.


In addition to satisfaction questions, workshop specific skill questions were also asked. Participants were asked to rate their confidence in each skill after the workshop, with the following results:

For more information on the upcoming workshops and to register for the free 60-minute sessions, please click here.


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Organization Information

Women's Employment Network

Location: Kansas City, MO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Mark Halastik
Development Officer
Kansas City, MO United States
$60,115 raised of $65,000 goal
502 donations
$4,885 to go
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