Numerous community leaders recommended Karen Dace, Ph.D., to the executives at the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City as the perfect speaker to introduce the results of its two reports – “Her Reality” and “Her Voice.”
“We are honored Dr. Dace was our keynote speaker,” said Dawn Oliver, executive director of the Women’s Foundation. “She did a fabulous job engaging the audience and setting the stage for the research results.”
The reports, based on the results of the 2010 census, researched the status of women across Kansas City, addressing the increasing gender wage gap in the nation and the larger gap in Kansas City. The reports also revealed that many women – and often women with children – live in poverty.
“I was visited a few weeks ago and asked to offer insight into the study findings and discuss possible approaches,” said Dace. “I was struck by what I think are four essential characteristics for any woman committed to changing the current status of women, all women, for the better.”
According to the findings of the reports, 3 million more women are living in poverty in the U.S. than there were in 2008, with 83,596 of them in Kansas City.
The first thing you need to help women improve their plight is pertinent information, according to Dace. She stressed the need for historical, situational and statistical knowledge.
“We need to know where we have been, where we are and at least the beginnings of an idea of where we are going,” said Dace.
An essential ingredient in improving women’s lives is education. The report found that one quarter of the women over 25 in the Kansas City community (228,969) have no education beyond high school.
Dace said the second of the four required characteristics is “some amount of anger about the current status of women and girls.” In spite of being an African American woman and wearing the much repeated label of the “Angry Black Women the world fears so much,” Dace said that she’s referring to the “type of anger that makes you roll up your sleeves, putting your heads together and pens to paper to right a wrong – the kind of anger that calls us to act.”
Of course, if we’re called to act, we must have a plan – requirement number three. Dace credited her high school teacher, Sister Denise Devitt, for her public speaking skills she learned as part of the speech team. She also learned the value of persistence from Devitt.
“Throughout the semester, Sr. Denise made gentle suggestions (that I become a member of the speech team) and I ignored them,” said Dace. “But, she was persistent; she literally chased me for one year until I finally joined. She was persistent, and her persistence was her plan.”
Now, she said, we need a plan to help women get out of poverty, to even the gender wage gap.
The fourth and final requirement is to collaborate with people we know, as well as strangers, to help the women in our area.
Women in Kansas City make up 49.2 percent of the workforce. More than 100,000 children live with a single mother who works. Women earned only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men, lower than the national average of 77 cents.
According to Dace, women need our help. With the four essential characteristics outlined – pertinent information, some amount of anger, a plan and collaboration – we can begin to help right a disparity that impacts women and children in our community.
As examples of “walking the talk” to help women, the UMKC Division of Diversity was awarded a $25,000 grant to provide high school girls of color access to information on higher education, financial planning, careers and leadership development. In 2011, KC Leads was established to fulfill that need.
And, Dace was honored in The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City’s Twentieth Anniversary Commemorative Journal for her work in serving diverse communities, as well as her work toward social justice and equity.