Badass Babes: Wendy Doyle — CEO of United WE on women empowerment and policy changes

By Nicole Mitchell
Photos by Justina Kellner

Wendy Doyle is passionate about supporting women of all backgrounds, and she champions that passion through United WE, an evidence-based organization that works on systemic policy changes supporting women. Currently, Doyle is the president and CEO—a position she’s held for eight years—but she’s been working with the organization, starting as a volunteer, for nearly 25 years.

And a lot of work can happen in 25 years. Prior to her time at United WE, Doyle worked for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas as the executive vice president where she helped many single women find support. It was in that position that she began volunteering with United WE—which at the time was called the Women’s Foundation. In 2013, Doyle stepped full time into her current role where she keeps on giving—seriously giving—from supporting financially to attending events and starting new projects for the company, she does it all.

“If we can systematically solve some of the policy challenges, this would make a great impact to these women who are needing basic services,” Doyle says.

Photo by Justina Kellner

United WE tackles barriers that block women’s economic growth by conducting research, creating policy solutions, and providing resources to women. Women who are interested in getting involved are united with elected officials, community leaders, and other supporters.

Doyle is often recognized for her work in the nonprofit world. Most recently, she was inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame for her advocacy of womens’ rights. She’s also been written about in (or for!) different publications, such as IN Kansas City and The Missouri Times. She herself has written for HuffPost and Kansas Reflector.

In her eight years as CEO of United WE, Doyle has done a lot; however she is most proud of the evolution of the organization as a whole. As United WE approaches its 30th anniversary, the organization is able to keep on serving women because organizers like Doyle who are passionate about educating and supporting women with information that is relevant with the needs and demands of society—such as research and solutions on lowering women’s occupational licensing barriers and breast cancer research on Missouri women.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, United WE didn’t stop working. The organization continued its mission—this time researching COVID-19’s impact on women in Kansas and Missouri. Doyle welcomed the change.

“It’s never the same,” Doyle says of her work with United WE. “That’s the exciting part. That’s the nature of our work and the world in general.”

Photo by Justina Kellner

And more change is coming. Historically, United WE has provided research and assistance for women in solely Missouri and Kansas. But through the organization’s new Appointments Project, United WE will be able to serve women across the US. 

“Our Appointments Project is really scaling across the country, and that initiative is really helping get women appointed by an elected official to a board or a commission,” Doyle says. “We have prioritized this for our organization because we need more women at the decision making table.”

From its conception, United WE has advocated for policy changes that support women. With the Appointment Project, the organization is able to provide women with the resources and education to get involved with civic boards themselves. After detailed research, United WE identified the largest barriers causing underrepresentation of women on civic boards and commissions: cultural barriers, legal protections, and critical mass.

“If we can systematically solve some of the policy challenges, this would make a great impact to these women who are needing basic services.” 

– Wendy Doyle

Gender diversity on boards and commissions does more than help support women; it also improves overall effectiveness and public trust. Increased gender parity led to increased trust in government for both women and men and in general both women and men feel better about their government when that government is more diverse.

The Appointments Project now serves cities across the country—including Ft. Worth, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, and South San Francisco—and is continuing to grow. 

Thirty years in action means a lot of progress, and as the organization continues to expand its reach, celebration is in order. On Sept. 29, United WE is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the annual We Work for Change event. Alongside Doyle are featured speakers Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments and Chair of Starbucks; Tina Tchen, President and CEO of Time’s Up Now and the Time’s Up Foundation; and Tiffany Dufu, author, founder, and CEO of the Cru. Tickets can be purchased online for either in-person and virtual attendance. Even better—gather all of your favorite gals and host a viewing party to get party favors with your tickets. That’s what our team at Catcall is doing, and we’d love to see you there.

Nicole Mitchell
 (she/they) is a writer and social media manager who graduated December 2020 with a degree in strategic communication. A few of her favorite things include cuddling with cats, listening to Bon Iver, making lattes, and running her book club (even though sometimes she forgets to read the books.)

Justina Kellner is a Kansas City portrait and wedding photographer with a passion for creativity. You’ll find her hands in every possible medium of the arts including digital and film photography, painting, drawing, music, and even a touch of ballet. As a well grounded Capricorn, she also manages an online closet of upcycled trendy clothing, because everything should be recycled – change her mind.

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