WE Lead is a 10-month executive leadership development experience from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber for high-potential, goal-oriented women who are actively preparing for the next level of their career.
Sally Grimes, Director of Advancement at Activities Beyond the Classroom, is a participant of WE Lead who says that the program is so much more than just an executive leadership experience.
“WE Lead is an opportunity to step back, evaluate the path your career has taken, explore places where your career can go, and find the support and courage to move forward, whether that’s on your current path or a different path entirely,” she says. “Most people, but probably especially women, rarely take the time to thoughtfully evaluate where you’ve been and where you want to go, and WE Lead provides that opportunity.”
There are a variety of women who participate in WE Lead who hold a variety of positions and roles from different industries, allowing women to join together in sharing their challenges and opportunities, and to connect through them.
“No matter who you are professionally or what industry you are in, you will meet people who share similar challenges and opportunities, who can talk your industry’s talk, and who can become a mentor or confidante who understands the world in which you work,” adds Grimes.
The program is different from other leadership development programs offered by chambers throughout the region because it offers several opportunities for participants to improve and gain new ideas throughout its 10-month course, as opposed to other programs that only offer small nuggets of opportunity at one-time events.
“The program is also unique in that it attracts such a high-caliber of women leaders in Cincinnati,” says Grimes. “All of the women I’ve interacted with through the program are high performers who care deeply about their professional trajectory, how to balance their work with their home lives, and how to best contribute to Cincinnati.”
However, the current program for WE Lead hasn’t had an easy go-around. COVID-19 has forced the group to work from their homes and to experience a shift in their priorities. “Trying to wade through such an unknown situation, and in some cases trying to focus on work while teaching children, added tremendous stress for all us,” adds Grimes. “WE Lead program leaders recognized these shifts, quickly set up the next session as virtual, and adjusted the topic to stress management and self-care in times of uncertainty. Plus, a virtual social event was organized during evening hours as a chance for all of us to ‘get together’ to talk about how our lives are being affected by the pandemic.”
So far, Grimes says her favorite part about the program has been getting to know her fellow classmates.
“To be honest, I was incredibly intimidated at first,” she says. “When I read all of the other bios, I kept thinking to myself ‘I don’t belong here. Why did they let me in this program?’ I felt like my bio was peanuts compared to everybody else’s. But as I got to know the other women in the group, I realized just how open they are, and that no matter what industry we are in or what our background is, we all share very similar challenges in our careers. Everybody brings a unique perspective and a willingness to share their stories to help the other women in the group.”
“We hear time and time again that women are so appreciative of WE Lead as it pushes them to enhance their leadership and provides an opportunity to develop life-long relationships with an incredible network of women who will help them advance locally,” says Cincinnati Chamber Leadership Cincinnati & Leadership Action Director Amy Thompson.
There have been more than 750 graduates of the WE Lead program through the Cincinnati Chamber. You can see a list of previous graduates by clicking here.
There is a competitive process to participate in WE Lead, including an application and references. Applications for the upcoming WE Lead program are open now and will close on June 1, 2020. Click here to apply.