5 takeaways from Career Advice From The Women’s Leadership Accelerator

Chelsea Cirruzzo, (@chelseacirruzzo), a volunteer with the ONA Resource Team, compiled these key moments from the ONA20 session on Oct. 15, 2020. To view a recording of the session, register for on-demand access to the ONA20 archive. Session participants included:

5 key takeaways:

  1. The Women’s Leadership Accelerator is an intensive program that supercharges the leadership and management skills of women who are pushing digital innovation. Each year, it welcomes a cohort of women who work together all year, taking a holistic approach to personal development that evolves each year to respond to participants and their unique challenges. “So basically, every year we get a really incredible cohort of women from different places with different skills, doing different things with news organizations, and then we develop a program around what they’re working on to help them really create a support network for each other,” said Jennifer Mizgata.
  2. It’s important to understand that every leader leads differently, using their own strengths. “It doesn’t always come in the ways that you think it will or from the people that you think it might, and that you can kind of gain that leadership, inspiration and insight from a variety of different places,” said Dory Carr-Harris.
  3. Just because you have a certain title doesn’t mean you can’t find leadership opportunities. For Elizabeth Dunbar, that was taking on new opportunities, including being a union steward and leading a committee on diversity and inclusion. She would take on different projects in areas she wanted to explore, including audience engagement. She says you should start by figuring out your strengths and asking yourself how you can experiment and take steps towards being in the positions you want. “So my advice is just to kind of figure out how you can redefine your own role for yourself. And then also people will start noticing that,” she said.
  4. With everything going on, show yourself some grace, said Tasha Stewart. Start your day with a to-do list, try and go through it, but whatever doesn’t get finished will just go into the next day. Leaders should check in regularly with their employees, ask people if they need a mental health break. “Actually mean it, don’t just say it as a platitude,” she said. Respect the time of your employees during their off-time and show empathy during the pandemic. Eulimar Núñez says to ask people what tools they need to have at home—do they need a better chair, or a more flexible schedule?
  5. Soraya Membreno says to push back against the ideas and stereotypes about women leaders. Dory Carr-Harris says women should always be true to themselves. “And I think the other thing is that your leadership style is never set,” she said. She said not all leadership she’s experienced has worked for her, but she was able to pick and choose the type of leader she wanted to be based on the leadership styles of other women she’s worked with. “And also know that as a woman in a digital newsroom, or in any kind of role, whether you have a managerial title or not, by showing who you and trying to lead in a way that’s authentic to you, you automatically model to those around you that different kinds of leadership are possible and they can be successful,” she said.

Memorable/tweetable quotes:

  • “One important thing I’ve learned about leadership is how important it is to be authentically unapologetically yourself, because that will never be people who, like never encountered a leader like you,” said Tasha Stewart.
  • “The more that you know, the better position you’re in, it gives you more flexibility, it gives you more freedom. And it gives you the opportunity to even sometimes without realizing it, start charting a path or open yourself up to new experiences that might lead to your next job, or a new field of interest, or a way to build skills that will be able to, you know, sort of come back and help you in the end,” said Dory Carr-Harris, on how flexible and changing digital media is. “In digital media now, the more you know, the more flexible you can be,” she said.
  • “So my advice is just to kind of figure out how you can redefine your own role for yourself. And then also people will start noticing that.”— Elizabeth Dunbar on becoming a leader even if it’s not reflected in your title

Links to additional resources