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Kansas City nonprofit advocates for reciprocity as women continuously face licensing barriers

Missouri and Kansas making strides in reducing licensing barriers
Posted at 2:38 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 19:05:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For some women who hold occupational licenses, continuing their line of work after moving to a new state can be a challenge because of varying state licensing requirements.

“Each state has specific governing licensing requirements, our purpose is that there should be ease between if you want to move across state lines,” said Wendy Doyle, president of United WE.

United WEis a nonprofit advocating for women's equality.

Research shows women are three times more likely to hold an occupational license than men, leading them to be disproportionally impacted by licensing barriers. Nurses, dentists and stylists all need a license to practice, and carrying that license over to a new state doesn’t always hold.

“What we were doing in school 20 years ago is not relevant today, unless you want to look like early 2000s of sparkles,” said Nancy Weber, owner of the Lumine Salon in Waldo.

Weber explained hair care professionals have to routinely learn new techniques — such as hair braiding and eyebrow threading — to keep up with trends, and that often requires additional certifications or licenses not covered by a cosmetology license.

“We have to do continuing education which has an immense amount of expense out of pocket beyond the base of beauty school just to keep up in our industry,” Weber said.

Kansas and Missouri have made strides in making it easier with reciprocity.

In Kansas, out of state cosmetologists and estheticians who are already licensed can practice if they complete an exam or meet certain hours of training. In Missouri, professionals can practice if they already have a license in another state and at least one year of experience.

Missouri also reduced requirements for shampooing and hair braiding with help from United We.

“I will say, Missouri, as well as Kansas, has done a great job on reciprocity which really is passed into law that both governors have signed, really creating that ease and welcoming families, “ Doyle said.

Stylists at Lumine say these changes are helping them stay afloat, but the world of cosmetology should continually change to decrease the burden of continued education.

“As far as not having braiders have to go through cosmetology school, and now we're able to have people shampoo without having a license, I think that we're on a good path, but we need an immense amount of reform to be more inclusive as an industry,” Weber said.

United WE is continuing to push for further changes.

The nonprofit is in the process of reducing eyebrow threading requirements in Kansas and has assisted in making reciprocity easier for military spouses.

"Women tend to follow their spouses more often than men, so geography tends to be reduced as a barrier for women to be able to move their practice, such as teaching or the health care profession,” Doyle said.