Our Impact

Women's Leadership Program: Empowering Women to Lead

Posted by Alyson Weiss, Leadership Initiatives Manager on June 28, 2019

Our Women's Leadership Program is now accepting nominations for the Class of 2021.

Though women make up more than 50% of the modern workforce, it is well-documented that they are under-represented in leadership positions. The Chamber and our members are all in to support women and their employers.

The Women’s Leadership Program, presented in partnership with Simmons University, empowers women leaders with the skills and a network they need to excel in their own careers and to create conditions for other women to thrive. To date, we’ve graduated almost 1,000 women from across industries, sectors, and roles.

And women’s leadership is not just a matter of inclusion. According to Chamber member McKinsey, gender diversity is correlated with both profitability and value creation, with top-quartile companies on executive-level gender diversity having a 21% likelihood of outperforming their fourth-quartile industry peers. The Boston business community simply cannot afford to underinvest in women as leaders.

In my experience managing the Women’s Leadership Program, and from my conversations with program participants, alumni, and partners, this program can have a huge impact on the trajectory of participants’ careers and in their self-perception of their leadership attributes. If you are considering nominating yourself or a colleague, there are three major outcomes that you can expect at the completion of the program.

1. A toolkit of top in-demand leadership skills

Throughout the program learn from renowned faculty members at Simmons University, including Mary Shapiro and Dr. Stacy Blake-Beard. Curriculum focuses on the skills they need to excel at their current jobs, to position themselves for advancement, and to create the conditions for other women to thrive. These skills include identifying and owning your leadership and communication style, building and maintaining a strategic network, self-advocacy, team management, and negotiations.

Alumni from the program reported being able to immediately apply these skills for their own self-advocacy and to advance their employer’s goals. In fact, 69% of the class of 2018-2019 reported that they expanded their job responsibilities since starting the program, and 34% reported earning a promotion. 

This year, the majority of curriculum will be delivered virtually, maximizing the flexibility and accessiblity of the program in uncertain times.

Women’s leadership program helped me to refine my skills as a leader and helped me to advocate for myself and what I deserve. - Jen Crawford, Smith, Costello & Crawford

2. Access to the city’s most esteemed female leaders

Research shows that women are less likely to receive both mentorship and sponsorship at work, crucial determining factors for how likely they are to be promoted or given meaningful work. Through the Women’s Leadership Program, participants have access to leading women through the Chamber’s Women’s Network Advisory Board, the Women's Leadership Program alumni network, and programming featuring some of the city’s renowned male and female leaders.

To address the mentoring gap, we have added small group discussions led by alumni and members of the Women’s Network Advisory Board and a Candid Conversations discussion where participants can get advice and perspective on some of the topics that matter most to women in the workforce, such as effective communication, self-advocacy, giving and receiving feedback, and building inclusive teams. In addition, participants will go behind-the-scenes of a woman-led business and hear leadership lessons from the organization’s senior executives.

Learning, collaborating, and networking with powerful, instrumental women is liberating. - Winnie Lamour, UHM Properties LLC

3. A peer network across industries, sectors, and professions

In addition to learning from leaders in the city, the Women’s Leadership Program also heavily emphasizes peer to peer learning. Research from Harvard Business Review reveals that for women to achieve executive positions with the highest levels of authority and pay, they need an inner circle of close female contacts. Our program facilitates these close, career-long relationships through small group exercises throughout the program, and by pairing each participant into a peer mentor group of 4-5 other women based on similar professional development goals. With that peer group, each participant will design and implement an Individual Action Project at their organization, directly applying lessons learned from Women's Leadership Program to the organization that supported their participation.

I met a lot of smart capable women that I am proud to know. - Eleanor Malloy, John Hancock

The importance of programming that allows women the time and space to invest in their own skills and network has never been clearer. If you are interested in nominating yourself or another amazing woman in your life to the program, please learn more and submit a nomination before August 31, 2020.