Kansas City group of female entrepreneurs form Athena League

Next month, a group of women will begin a collaboration of "female professionals, community leaders and innovators who are passionate about supporting and growing women entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region and beyond." Athena League will officially launch the group alongside their partners in an open event to be held October 10 at Barkley Headquarters.

Next month, a group of women will begin a collaboration of “female professionals, community leaders and innovators who are passionate about supporting and growing women entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region and beyond.” Athena League will officially launch the group alongside their partners in an open event to be held October 10 at Barkley Headquarters. To give us an idea of the League’s aspirations, two Athenas—Mary Noulles at Triple-I and Kristin Kenney at Polsinelli, with both companies acting as launch sponsors—answered questions from Silicon Prairie News about their goals, why the group formed and more.


Silicon Prairie News: In a sentence, what is the Athena League?

Mary Noulles: The League serves as a catalyst to foster and inspire aspiring and established female entrepreneurs by providing them with access to a community of like-minded peers and mentors. 


SPN: Have there been any experiences in particular that spurred the creation of Athena League?

Kristin Kenney: The gender gap surrounding the entrepreneurial culture is always surprising to me, both in my experience as an entrepreneur and now as a startup lawyer. What I’ve learned is that women need certain tools to feel confident about taking the risk to start a company because women are different than men. Women have unique skill sets that have been shown to positively affect companies’ culture and profitability. That means that encouraging and supporting women entrepreneurs not only empowers women, but it strengthens our economy as a whole. There are quite a few great organizations in the area that focus on supporting and encouraging women, like Central Exchange, Women’s Capital Connection, WiSTEMM and Women’s Business Center—just to name a few. Our goal is to facilitate a platform to build a rich network of women who will be able to offer aspiring female entrepreneurs the support, wisdom and tools they need to succeed.  


SPN: How robust is the group of female entrepreneurs in Kansas City and what are some of the ways the League will support them?

MN: Kansas City is home to a robust ecosystem for female entrepreneurs; however, it still remains in silos. Through community-focused events and educational programs, we will work to reduce the silos in the Kansas City area and beyond in order to elevate awareness of our creative female entrepreneurs, which will ultimately inspire women across all industries in diverse positions with similar career goals. Subsequently, Athenas will also focus on providing a forum for women to share their knowledge in creating the “work-life fit.” Often, women choose careers over family or vice-versa because that’s the status quo; however, we will work to defy that and show women can truly have it all.

KK: There are so many talented and successful women entrepreneurs and professionals in Kansas City and the Midwest, and there is an even larger number of women who only need the proper tools to take their idea or business to the next step. The Athena League is taking a “pay it forward” approach to helping support and grow women in entrepreneurship. We’re committed to helping connect the dots between aspiring and established women entrepreneurs by inviting entrepreneurs and professionals to share their ideas and experiences, facilitating a network of women who are committed to supporting other women.


SPN: Do you have a personal goal for what the League can accomplish?

MN: For me, the goal of Athena League is to not just grow female entrepreneurs and leaders in general, but to also create an established community of mentors, peers, educators and innovators who can come together to exchange ideas, share experiences and create companies together. We will collaboratively build our Silicon Prairie.

KK: I have a couple goals for Athena League. First, I want to see more women starting and leading companies, creating new technologies and changing industries in the Midwest, which I believe will have a huge effect on our economy on a micro and macro level. Second, my goal is it will facilitate a strong community of women professionals and entrepreneurs who are deeply committed to other women’s success in all aspects of their life.


SPN: A Kauffman Foundation study found that despite a growing pool of women with advanced degrees, only 10 percent of Inc. 500 companies are led by women. How can that stat be changed?

MN: To me, this statistic stems from the antiquated stigma that women must choose work or family. Despite global efforts to encourage women to “lean in,” we can at times struggle with this work-life fit. Athenas will work to create a community of like-minded females who will inspire and support one another to grow professionally and personally. 

KK: I think there are a few different factors that contribute to that statistic. First, when it comes to taking risks, we tend to be cautious and underestimate our ability and knowledge. On the other hand, men tend to be more risk-tolerant and overestimate their abilities. When women get the support they need, they perform better and are more confident in their abilities. Another factor is aligning our career and personal goals. For many women, finding success and happiness in both aspects of our lives is difficult and frustrating. Too often, women feel the need to choose one over the other, which is a sacrifice we don’t have to make. One of the main goals of Athena League is to foster a community where the collective wisdom and experience of fellow Athenas helps aspiring entrepreneurs align and realize their individual goals.


SPN: How can other women get involved and is there a more tech focus, or is it aimed at all industries?

MN: First, I encourage all women to join us for our launch event October 10 to celebrate our female entrepreneurs and innovators. I then recommend women to join us at future events and programs to share their personal stories—this will help reduce silos in the region and beyond. This will also create a voice for female entrepreneurs, which will ultimately create our Athena community. Athena League is industry-agnostic, so we encourage all to engage with us and share your story. 

KK: One of the fundamental principles of Athena League is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We believe it’s important to encourage collaboration across all industries and professions, so we welcome anyone who is interested to join us for our launch party or our future monthly events, which we will post on Facebook and Twitter.


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