A Champion of Woman Leaders

In 1978 Marjorie Powell Allen returned from a women's conference in Houston, full of enthusiasm - and ready to do something that would make a difference for women in Kansas City. She contacted Beth Smith, and the two visionaries convened a task force of 12 women representing a cross-section of the community.

For two years, the group met regularly and by 1980, an organization called The Central Exchange opened in Crown Center, adding 160 members in its first year.

We are always grateful to and proud of the women who took the steps to create The Central Exchange.

A Voice to Reckon With

"Our goal was to become a respected voice in the community," remembers originating member Beth Smith. The originators should be proud. Below is a brief overview of our accomplishments over the last 30 years.

Highlights of History


Marjorie Powell Allen and Beth Smith form a task force to determine how to make a difference for women in Kansas City.


The Central Exchange opens in Crown Center, drawing 160 members in its first year. In addition to Marjorie Powell Allen and Beth Smith, originating members include Kay Barnes, Anita Butler, Joan Dillon, Adele Hall, Mamie Hughes, Dorothy Johnson, Linda Moore, Terry Satterlee, Linda Hood Talbott and Judith Whittaker. 
Toni Watson named executive director.


Move to the Radisson Muehlbach in May. The first Woman of the Year award goes to Ruth Margolin "a woman who epitomizes networking." 


Linda Doolin Ward named executive director.


Oleta Adams cuts her first album at Central Exchange fundraiser July 30.


The Central Exchange moves to 1020 Central in the historic downtown fire station in January. 250 members join during the year. Casey Eike named executive director.


Savvy magazine reports: "There is no other place like it in the country; a club just for women, for meeting, eating, business entertaining; for sharing power…" (October issue).


Bobbi Herring hired as Executive Director.


The Central Exchange Executive Director, Bobbi Herring, testifies before the Glass Ceiling Commission on the role of a professional organization to advance women in the workplace.


Organizations holds first public Woman of the Year event.


Gabrielle Kaniger named president and CEO.


The Central Exchange creates a leadership fund at the Women's Foundation and a scholarship endowment at UMKC.


Renovation takes place at the downtown facility.


The Central Exchange turns 20. The Central Exchange Education Center opens in Overland Park as a second CX facility. Growing Season Campaign Council formed to raise $500,000 to the facilities and services of The Central Exchange and the Central Exchange Education Center. A $250,000 endowment established to honor Adele Hall. The Adele Hall Endowment for Advancement and Development (AHEAD) allows women in the community access to CX membership who otherwise could not afford it.


Our most popular series, the CEO Series kicks off with Landon H. Rowland, CEO of Stilwell Financial Inc. More than 200 new members join.


CX Web Site goes live. Ellen D'Amato named President & CEO.


The Central Exchange launches the Women's Lyceum, an annual leadership conference for women, founded by member Beth Zollars and chaired by Joan Strewler Carter. More than 900 attend luncheon keynote and almost 500 attend the day-long conference.

New dues structure enables members to attend unlimited programming at no additional charge. Program attendance increases 60 percent in the first year of this initiative. First issue of quarterly newsletter published.


The Revitalization of Kansas City series debuts with underwriting from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.


The Central Exchange celebrates its Silver Anniversary with a stellar year. A record 775 attend the Women's Lyceum. At the conference a partnership with The Kansas City Star is announced to annually publish a "scorecard" of the number of women in executive positions and on boards of directors of the Star 50 regional public companies. A new series kicks off, "Opening Doors and Rising to the Top: Leadership Development for Women of Color."


In partnership with Right Management, The Central Exchange pilots an intensive, year- long leadership development program called, "Emerging Leaders."


The Central Exchange Women's Lyceum celebrates its fifth anniversary with a sellout crowd of more than 1,000 women. Membership reaches an all-time high in June.


The Executive MBA program at the Bloch School-UMKC presents a four-part, eight hour series called The Enlightened Leader: Strategies for the 21stCentury Professional, for which attendees receive a certificate of professional achievement. CX begins pod casting some programs, launches an e-mentoring program, and initiates a board intern program.


CX groups form on LinkedIn and Facebook; Social Media special interest group starts; groundwork begins for community-wide initiative to increase gender diversity at the top of area businesses and firms. The Executive MBA program at the Bloch School-UMKC presents another professional development series as does the Hauptmann School for Public Affairs at Park University, both offering certificates of professional achievement.


The Central Exchange celebrates its 30th Anniversary.  During this milestone year, a new state-of-the-art website was activated and the organization officially launched a community-wide initiative called "win|win, a business case for Kansas City".   The goal of the initiative is to increase gender diversity at the top of area companies to 20% by 2015 based on the strong business case that gender diversity at the top results in greater profitability and more innovation.        


Central Exchange rebrands with a new logo, modified name (dropped "the") and new tagline -"Connect. Achieve. Transform."


Central Exchange launches WiSTEMM, an initiative designed to put a well-deserved spotlight on women in Kansas City working in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine. By focusing on successful STEMM leaders, WinSTEMM hopes to draw attention to the resource shortfall in these careers and provide inspiration for others to pursue careers in these areas.

CEO Ellen D'Amato retires and board member Joan Cohen steps in as interim President and CEO.


CiCi Rojas is named President and CEO.

Central Exchange
1020 Central St. Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 471-7560 Downtown
(913) 253-0900 CX South