After 13 years in the insurance industry, Maria Kim joined Cara – a social purpose organization helping people affected by poverty (and often the interrelated challenges of recovery, domestic violence, episodic homelessness and incarceration) to get and keep good jobs, and more importantly rebuild hope, self-esteem and opportunity for themselves and their families in the process. They produce hundreds of jobs each year, at retention rates over 20 points higher than national norms, and with nearly 80% of employed participants moving onto permanent housing in which their families can thrive.
Their results don’t just end with employment. They also maintain market-competitive businesses that create gateway jobs for those they serve, and they produce a profound social return on investment, where for every dollar invested in this work, $5.97 is re-invested in society over a five year time horizon. The work is important not only because of its clear goal of bringing individuals in need back to the dignity and the productivity of employment, but because of its clear mission to transform people’s lives. Families become stronger, relationships are healed, and communities become more vibrant because nothing gives you a positive outlook on life like a job.
Maria’s civic leadership includes service on the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation focusing on investments in our county’s people and on inclusive employment. Her board leadership includes service with the EPIC Academy – a charter high school in Chicago’s south side, Rebuilding Exchange – a social enterprise in the circular economy focused on building up what other people take down, Chicago Women in Philanthropy – a network of women in the purpose, public and private sectors dedicated to the heavy lifting of creating opportunity for women and girls, the Leadership Fellows Association – a community of leaders from across Chicago building community through greater empathy, and Horizons for Youth – a mentorship and scholarship organization exposing youth to the limitless possibilities of their future.
She was a fellow for Leadership Greater Chicago’s Class of 2008, a 2010 Bank of America Neighborhood Builder, a 2012 American Marshall Memorial Fellow, a 2013 TEDxMidwest Emerging Leader and a 2018 Bank of America Vital Voices Global Ambassador. Maria holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.