As a former broadcast journalist, broadcaster, business professional, and working mom, you could say I’m used to wearing a variety of hats. I know what it’s like to juggle the demands of work and my family.
This alone is the most difficult experience of my life.
For most moms, the challenges don’t end there. Today, many mothers juggle the demands of work, their families, and grapple with a nationwide shortage of formula that prevents her from feeding her baby. They may be unable to sleep at night because they live in childcare deserts where childcare is unavailable or too expensive to be a realistic option.
When women cannot work, entire communities suffer. The McKinsey Global Institute found that Kansas could grow its economy 10-15% by 2025 if women’s participation in the state workforce increases.
Additionally, the latest report on the Status of Women in Kansas from the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization United WE revealed many gaps that we have not yet addressed. The report found that child care costs more than tuition in the state of Kansas and that child care consumes an average of 30% of Kansas women’s income. This is one of the highest percentages in the United States!
Access to childcare services is only one persistent obstacle for women who want to work. It’s overwhelming and woven into the policies that shape our workforce. Women and families everywhere are desperate for change and looking for solutions.
Now imagine that the working mother earlier is your wife, daughter, granddaughter, neighbor, friend or employee. We can all agree that there are structural barriers that need to change. Let’s make this world better. Let’s improve our state.
In my role at the Kansas Chamber, we remain at the forefront of issues facing Kansas businesses. Frankly, the economic health of Kansas is my business. So what can be done to help women and families for the economic benefit of our state?
A first step is to share your story and your voice. I am proud to be part of a Kansas Women’s Economic Development Task Force formed by United WE to study issues related to women’s participation and advancement in the workforce.
This summer, we’re hosting a series of town halls across Kansas to hear first-hand the personal stories of women and families across the state about the barriers they face. The stories we hear will be combined into a comprehensive report and used to create bipartisan political reform for all Kansas women.
After:See inside Topeka’s historic The Beacon
Town halls are open to all women and allies. The first town hall is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 23 at The Beacon in Topeka. Free lunch, free professional child care and a $10 gift card for all attendees will be provided.
Women can also participate in a statewide virtual town hall that will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on August 24. It’s a chance to be heard. This is an opportunity to have a real and significant impact on future generations.
I often think about the legacy I would like to leave in the great state of Kansas. The legacy I want to leave to my family. Let’s look to the future and build a world in which we want our daughters, granddaughters, families and all young women to live and thrive economically.
Together we can unite for business. Unite for women and families. United for change. Learn more and register to join me at Topeka Town Hall on June 23 at united-we.org/townhalls.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag is vice president of communications at the Kansas Chamber and the proud mom of a 14-year-old daughter.