Joanne Collins, CX founding member, has always loved working with people, particularly with diverse groups. A 17-year member of the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council and vice-chair of the Missouri advisory committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights (among many other appointments, memberships, and tenures), Joanne has served the community locally, regionally, and nationally. 

In her experience in banking, insurance, finance, politics and beyond, she has encouraged involvement from everyone. Especially, she says, when it comes to considering how policy affects the individual.

The Importance of Conversation

Growing up, she understood that questioning adults was not encouraged – as a child, she wasn’t permitted to participate in the conversations that the grownups were having, but she took the opportunity to become a sharp listener. She took in everything they said, and in the meantime learned the value of everyone having an opportunity to say what they had to say.

Those listening skills have served her well in her professional career – especially in politics. As a city councilperson, she’d frequently receive calls from frustrated constituents. Someone would call her with an issue, and they might even be irate, demanding a fix from her. But she’d turn the issue back to them and ask them for the solution: “You have the problem; you must know the solution.” That made them pause! And it also drove people to get involved themselves, to participate in their neighborhood associations and communities, rather than just filing their complaints.

Words of Wisdom

With many years of professional and political success under her belt, what would she tell her younger self? Joanne says, “Start younger and educate yourself. Rather than waiting for your turn to come around, just go ahead and speak up!” You know what you know, so share that; there’s no reason to be intimidated by anyone else who’s in the room or by your own fear.

She would also encourage her younger self to get the full picture: There are multiple perspectives out there, so don’t take only one person’s opinion. It’s that core belief that fueled her reputation for doing the speaking up herself – and for encouraging others to do the same.

A renowned worker of rooms, Joanne says “cross-pollination is critical” when it comes to creating a network and making connections during workshops and events. 

“Don’t shy away,” she says. “Share your knowledge and keep introducing yourself.”

Why Central Exchange

Joanne says that when she was 23 years old, she belonged to 23 organizations. And when she was 53, she was part of 53 organizations. Now that she’s in her 80s, she’s down to just 13 – and becoming even more choosy about the groups that she belongs to.

Creating and maintaining relationships is critical, not just for professional women but for anyone involved in future planning. That’s what she sees at Central Exchange, and that’s why she continues to be part of it.

She remembers having discussions about how to empower women to be part of the decision-making process, which in the 1970s and 1980s was often driven by men over drinks, on the golf course, or in men’s-only social clubs.

“Women needed the same environment for conversation, networking, and relationship-building,” Joanne says.

It was all those in-home conversations that led to the establishment of Central Exchange in 1980 – and to her decision to run for political office. She believed then, as she believes now, that all voices should be heard and that women should support other women.

A big thank you to Joanne for her support of the Central Exchange community – and Kansas City women – since the CX beginning. We invite you to come find conversation and connection at one of our many upcoming programs. Be our guest for an upcoming webinar, an Exchange Circle, or another event!