Sisterhood: Organization creates community for local women

At the Heartland Women’s Leadership Council, the new girlfriends’ network has replaced the traditional “old boy’s network,” says Adriana Martinez, co-chair of the organization. “It’s a network of girlfriends you can call up and they ask, ‘How can I help?’ These women are ready to jump in and help support one another.”
Formed in 2009 as a 501C(3), the council seeks “to empower, coach and serve as a catalyst for women of diverse backgrounds to engage in civic leadership roles and service projects that have a positive impact on the greater Kansas City region.”
Martinez has seen firsthand the positive impact the council, comprised of 26 women, has had on women like one of its founding members, lawyer Kiran Reddy Huggins. “She’s really evolved and come into her own self,” Martinez says. “I think of her as my little sister and have enjoyed watching her grow as individual with so much potential.” 
Huggins now serves as vice chair of the council’s programs and events. “HWLC is a great way to gain exposure, especially for young, professional women,” she says. “It’s opened my eyes to what other women have accomplished and where I can help out in my community.”
The council hosts two annual board “matchmaking” events for women, based loosely on the idea of speed dating. Women interested in serving on arts or other nonprofit boards meet with representatives from these organizations in a timed social networking event.
“This provides women with new opportunities to learn more about organizations to see if they’re a good match and it also benefits the community by offering them an eclectic and diverse pool of candidates,” Martinez says. 
In August the council and the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City will match interested candidates with board positions with local arts organizations. A later, general matchmaking event will introduce candidates to nonprofit boards. The council, which is always seeking women to join, also provides board leadership training. 
In addition, the council hosts two, annual signature fundraising events: the Living Legend Award (last year’s recipient was former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes; Jackson County Legislator Theresa Garza Ruiz received the Emerging Legend Award); and “Martinis, Women & Shoes,” with proceeds donated to organizations that help women in need. Safehome, a local domestic violence shelter, was last year’s recipient.
“We always say that every woman has one pair of shoes she wishes she had somewhere to wear them to and this is the event,” Martinez says, laughing. “It’s an opportunity to show off our shoes, network and support one another.” 
Networking events also are offered throughout the year for women in the community. “The best part for me is being surrounded by peers, mentors and individuals from various industries,” Martinez says. “People I might otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet.”
Heartland Women’s Leadership Council’s upcoming events: 
Gurlz Night Out
A night of discounted shopping, food and live music from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27 at Zona Rosa, 8640 N. Dixson Ave., Kansas City, Mo.
Martinis, Women & Shoes
A fundraising event featuring food, drinks, silent auction, shoe fashion show, sexy shoe contest and prizes. Doors open at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 at The Gallery Event Space, 61 E. 14th St., Kansas City, Mo. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Hope House domestic violence shelter.
For more information, visit
Photo by Angela Bond


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