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Banking on KC – Daniel Silva of the KCK Chamber of Commerce

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Daniel Silva, the president and CEO of the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce, who's here to announce an exciting new women's initiative that's just kicked off. Welcome, Daniel.

Daniel Silva:

Hi, Kelly. Thanks for having me.

Kelly Scanlon:

As I said, you have a big announcement about the Kansas City Kansas Chamber and the KCK Women's Chamber. Tell us about that.

Daniel Silva:

Yes, very pleased to announce that we will be forming, or have formed, the Women's Chamber Network, which is now a full-fledged women's division at the KCK Chamber. We have done this in collaboration with the KCK Women's Chamber, so excited to be rolling out programming and events specifically dedicated to women in business.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're doing this on the hundredth anniversary of women's right to vote, that's pretty exciting. Isn't this also the 100th anniversary of the Women's Chamber as well?

Daniel Silva:

Correct. Again, great timing for us. Again, the Women's Chamber was created in a time, a hundred years ago, when women were not allowed to participate in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. We believe strongly that that day has long come and gone, and it's about being inclusive and making sure that the women's perspective and voice is at the table here at the Chamber.

Kelly Scanlon:

Aside from the historic timing, why was now the right time to combine these two organizations?

Daniel Silva:

The KCK Women's Chamber is led by a volunteer board, they do amazing work. We had just initiated, a couple of years ago, one specific women's program called the Women's Executive Network and found that to be very successful. We had collaborated with the Women's Chamber on that one. As they were thinking through again the future of their organization and the continuation of programming and events, it just started to make a lot more sense for us to come together versus having two separate entities. Again, for us, our ability to be inclusive and fully integrate women in business into our programming is a big win for us and the community, we believe.

Kelly Scanlon:

How will this combined KCK Women's Chamber Network better serve women? What are some of the things that it's going to allow you to do and that you're going to be able to roll out now that you've got some synergies and that you won't necessarily be competing for resources?

Daniel Silva:

Right, they will have monthly events. Again, once we're able to meet in person, those events will be luncheons, for topics related and important to women. Again, all programming and all events are designed by women for women, which we believe to be extremely important. The Women's Chamber Board will now serve as the Women's Chamber Network Committee and their chair will have a seat on our board of directors. I think being able to incorporate programming by women for women really strengthens our ability to provide events, networking opportunities, business opportunities that women are seeking, really trying to empower them and their voice. I also look forward to public policy recommendations that comes from that division that we may not have entertained or took on in the past, as it relates to women in the business environment, because as you said, that sometimes comes with its own set of challenges.

Kelly Scanlon:

You've spoken in general terms today that there will be programming by women for women, and that's very exciting, but specifically, what are the kinds of programs that you anticipate being able to offer?

Daniel Silva:

We're you looking at, again this is just a conversation that I've had with the Women's Board, leadership development is going to be very important, we'll have programming dedicated specifically to female execs, VP level and above, but we'll also have programming jut dedicated or open to mid-managers or young professional women so that we really start to build that pipeline from just entering the work force on through the VP level and C-suite. We're really excited about that as well. But we understand at times you have to carve out specific programming to address very specific needs, and so that's why this Women's Chamber Network is important. We understand that not every woman that will be part of this network is a business owner or can afford to be full-fledged KCK Chamber member. We do have an individual rate for someone to join the Women's Chamber Network, which I think is important, and when they're able to join as a business owner or their employer wants to join as a full member then we will accept that.

Kelly Scanlon:

If I'm understanding it correctly, you don't need to necessarily join the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce in order to be part of the Women's Network. You can actually join the Women's Network separately from the Chamber, right?

Daniel Silva:

Correct. We've done this to really tap into maybe those women in business who maybe their employer is not a Chamber member, but they still want to participate individually, or if you're a young professional woman just entering the workforce and you're not a business owner and your employer does not belong to the Chamber. We're trying to create different on-ramps that are not cost prohibitive for these types of folks. Now, if you're a female and your company already belongs to the Chamber, then you also get to tap into this. But again, really trying to develop this type of access and on-ramp for folks that are beyond just the CEOs and the business owners. We want this open to everyone.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, that's very interesting because it strikes me, for example, that if you're a woman business owner, that in addition to getting to meet other women business owners, or as a C-level executive and getting to meet other C-level executives, you're also crossing these different areas as well, so that perhaps a young professional woman is able to meet and benefit from mentoring from a C-suite level woman, and perhaps someone who's spent a career in corporate can feel inspired by the entrepreneurial energy that someone who's a business owner brings to the group.

Daniel Silva:

We hope so. The mentoring piece will be important, just the ability to connect these different women from different levels of where they're at in their careers to one another, we think is going to be very beneficial. Again, the upside again, for our Chamber, once we have this division really formed and have great participation, and we're already seeing folks register and become members. Talk about a deep bench, I mean, we're going to have such an exciting and diverse bench to pull from when we're identifying female board candidates for our board of directors and hopefully help them serve on other boards. That's really, I think at the end of the day, what we're really hoping to do as well.

Kelly Scanlon:

You mentioned young professional women, let's talk a bit more broadly though about your young professionals initiative, the larger one that's inclusive of both men and women. In addition to the new women's initiatives, you have some exciting things that are happening within that young professionals group at the Chamber. Tell us about some of those.

Daniel Silva:

Sure, yes. Our young professionals initiative is called KCK Forward. Interestingly enough, the last couple of board chairs have been female, for the chairs for this young professional initiative. We target the young professionals, millennials, again, try to develop programming, and again, created by them for them. These are folks that are relatively on the same trajectory in their career path, so got a lot of good excitement around this group. They like the networking, but they also really dove into professional development. I think what young professional groups often ask for and need is that connectivity to whoever's at the next step in the career trajectory or to the CEO, so they can continue to develop themselves, but also start forming these important connections that they're going to need down the line.

Daniel Silva:

Then again, for us to have so many talented young professional women, now our ability to connect them to this Women's Chamber Network, I think this is going to be fantastic. I mean, they're exceptional in their own right but I'm excited to see what will happen once we get to pair them or connect them with a female CEO, what that could turn into.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. Right now, especially, it's just so important for that connectivity and for those kinds of collisions to occur, because we haven't necessarily been able to get out and form the kinds of relationships that we're used to creating by attending network events and going to luncheons and things like that. As we reemerge and the business world starts to open back up again, the importance of those kinds of programs that you're talking about and the relationship building is going to be more important than ever.

Daniel Silva:

Absolutely. Again, I think for us, we're targeting Q3 of next year, and I think most people are too, to really get back to in-person events, but in the meantime, we're ready and have been able to provide all of our services and programming virtually and we've been successful at it. We don't intend for the virtual world to stop us, we will continue rolling out programs virtually and be ready to go when we're able to go in person. In the meantime, again, we're going to build up the roster of folks that belong to this Women's Chamber Network and really start plugging them in.

Daniel Silva:

We have found that the networking piece is doable if it's kept small. I think once you get upwards of 15 to 20 people it can become a little bit much. Our programs, such as Congressional Forum, which is our public policy program that we host on the third Friday of every month, those are updates from our elected officials and there's Q and A, but we're averaging between 80 and a hundred participants every time we do this type of event. That's been great. I think for us, as a tip I would give, is obviously the promotion is key, allowing for grace in terms of how people interact with the speaker because it's not the same, but we try to build in as many opportunities for folks to ask questions via the chat or send us questions prior. Again, our ability to even just see each other virtually helps.

Daniel Silva:

We haven't done as much as a straight networking event online, meaning a group of people are in the virtual room and we're making those connections. Now, what we have been able to do and been pretty good at it, I think, is setting up those one-on-one conversations or small group conversations where we know like four or five people are wanting to connect with an employer or they're wanting to connect with a community partner. Then we're able to make those connections happen virtually. As people dial in, we're able to make those introductions to people that have not met each other up until that Zoom meeting. We just try to be as flexible and as creative as possible, to be honest.

Kelly Scanlon:

How do you see all these new initiatives that we've been talking about today helping to shape the larger Kansas City community in the years ahead?

Daniel Silva:

This Chamber is 122-year-old institution, it's been around for a very long time. It's evolving and has had to evolve. I think the next iteration or evolution for this Chamber is to be more reflective of the community that it serves. That includes not just gender-wise and youth-wise, but also people of color. We're working hard to ensure that we represent our community and that we are diverse and inclusive from the board level all the way through our programming and events.

Daniel Silva:

I've now been in this role for four years, it'll be five coming up in December. Being in this role is very important to me and our ability to move the needle, and again, make this organization the best it can be. I've got a great board of directors that really supports me and also supports our staff and also is very forward thinking in what are the programs and opportunities that we're providing for the business community, but also how can this organization also be a great community partner, because we understand that business does not exist in a vacuum. If we don't have a healthy community or we don't have a thriving community, then we don't have a good economy. I think our board definitely understands that and are always looking for opportunities to be creative and innovative. Some things just make sense, I think us rolling out this Women's Chamber Network, I think makes a lot of sense, same thing with the young professionals.

Kelly Scanlon:

Daniel, thank you so much for being with us on this episode of Banking on KC. You're doing so much good in the Kansas City community, and we wish you the best of luck with all these new programs and initiatives.

Daniel Silva:

No problem.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Daniel Silva for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Congratulations on the formation of the Women's Chamber Network.

Joe Close:

At Country Club Bank, we recognize that although progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to empower women economically and to promote women to leadership positions. It is a priority for the bank to be a leader in that effort. We encourage our female associates to aspire to leadership positions, and we support several organizations throughout the community that empower women and foster leadership opportunities. We applaud the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce for joining in that effort too.

Joe Close:

Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, Member FDIC.