Graduation Day for the First Class of the NW Women’s Leadership Academy

By Rachael Fuller & Jessica Harper

Thirty women in local government throughout the state of Oregon wrapped up a 10-month leadership program in November. The program, which began in February, 2018, provided women with in-person opportunities to enhance skills and competencies, build confidence, network, and expand professional connections. 

Feedback from participants indicated that they are graduating with increased confidence because of the leadership and peer network created during the academy and because they gained an enhanced understanding of and strategies to tackle a wide variety of practical and leadership issues. At the end of the program all thirty women were still participating, despite numerous job changes and relocations, which participants viewed as a clear indication of success and reflective of the desire of women to engage with other women on these important topics.  One participant expressed that, “Being exposed to successful women in government demonstrates to me that success in leadership is possible.” Another graduate reflected on the fact that fewer than 15% of local government CAO’s are women, but, she pointed out that, “NWWLA has shown that we can change that statistic.”

Moving forward, the cohort suggested incorporating broad department perspectives, increasing the cultural diversity of the steering committee, adding additional executive leadership skill development and a retreat or conference opportunity to further strengthen relationships.

Countless men and women in the local government profession in Oregon have supported this endeavor. The program will continue with a second cohort in September 2019; a similar program was launched in the state of Washington this fall. There will be opportunities for 2018 cohort members to assume positions in the steering committee and the executive committee, providing additional transferrable leadership and networking opportunities. 

The NW Women’s Leadership Academy is committed to continuous improvement and will rely on 2018 cohort members, steering committee members and instructors to help determine additional to add to the curriculum to achieve the Academy’s overarching goal of creating a future where women are equally represented in leadership positions in local government.

For more information and/or to discuss opportunities for collaboration:

Rachael Fuller, City Manager – City of Hood River, OR: or (541) 387-5252

Jessica Harper, Livability Manager – City of Gresham, OR:  or (503) 618-2869