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'Agents of Change': Women in Leadership at the FEC

The benefits of women in leadership are many, definite and measurable. Shelley Penn, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of the Full Employment Council, is working proof of that. “Women who lead can often be powerful agents of change,” said Penn. Penn believes that having women in leadership broadens the perspective on any subject. But being able to provide that perspective comes with responsibility, Penn says. “I always think of that quote by Maya Angelou: ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.’ Having a seat at the table, and a voice in the discussion, is everything. It carries with it a responsibility of which I am always aware,” said Penn.

Shelley Penn, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of the FEC

For Clyde McQueen, CEO and President of the FEC, women in leadership have always been standard. He explained that the women who hold key positions in leadership at the FEC, like Penn, worked their way up from the ground floor. "They came in, they worked hard, and more than that, they showed proven results. They're also committed to serving the people. They're good leaders. This ability to get the results, and lead well, is just the norm for the women in senior leadership here," said McQueen. When Penn joined the Full Employment Council she fell in love with the nature and scope of the work. Connecting people to ladders of economic opportunity, and helping businesses create a skilled workforce, is a passion for Penn, and she brings a thoughtfulness and ability to innovative workforce planning that sets the FEC apart. She feels fortunate that she was allowed to develop her leadership skills at the Full Employment Council. “Anyone who knows me, knows I never shy away from a challenge,” said Penn. “With that being said, I was presented with tremendous opportunities, with a natural progression in scope. Leadership was always my ultimate goal, and I was fortunate to be in an organization that nurtured that.” In turn, Penn likes to mentor and coach other women in leadership.

“Finding a mentor can be incredibly impactful for anyone wanting to develop leadership skills. A mentor should be someone who is willing to support, share their knowledge, and provide opportunity,” said Penn. Her first mentor was Jackie Williams, the first Senior Vice President at the FEC. “I admired her style – she was no nonsense, but also had a great heart, for her employees and the people we serve,” said Penn. “One day, out of nowhere, she called me into her office and asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ My response was immediate. I told her, ‘Working next to you in a leadership role.’”

As a leader in a non-profit organization, Penn constantly keeps the mission and goals of the FEC at the forefront of her decisions. “Because we are here to serve our community, I hold us all – especially myself – to high standards,” said Penn. Penn’s commitment to nurturing other women in leadership is evident – women make up a large percentage of employees in leadership roles at the Full Employment Council. The Full Employment Council, Inc. (FEC) is the Managing Entity/Fiscal Agent for the Kansas City & Vicinity Workforce Development Board and the Eastern Jackson County Workforce Development Board. FEC is certified by the Missouri Division of Workforce Development to operate the Missouri Job Centers that serve Jackson, Clay, Cass, Platte and Ray counties. More information on the Full Employment Council can be found online at

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