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CWLI Announces Movement to the Edney Innovation Center; Team Expansion

This article was originally published on chattanoogan.com.


Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute announces the organization’s move to The Edney Innovation Center in the Society of Work effective June 1. Additionally, CWLI is expanding its internal team to better serve the organization’s growing membership base, officials said.

"CWLI has grown more than 150 percent since 2014 to more than 650 active members and has been making strides to strengthen programming to meet the needs of the organization’s diverse membership. CWLI’s members include women leaders in fields such as engineering, government, law enforcement, finance, hospitality, and more – spanning more than 200 unique organizations in the Greater Chattanooga area," officials said.

CWLI’s executive director Holly Ashley says the organization will benefit from being in the Society of Work because it is important to provide the right physical environment.

“While CWLI grows, it’s important for us to stay laser focused on the organization's mission that aims to increase the leadership capabilities and influence of area women,” said Ms. Ashley. “This requires CWLI to maintain a robust program offering that delivers value to the many ways women in Chattanooga lead, which will help our members reach their personal leadership aspirations. CWLI requires a work space that can allow our employees and members to collaborate most effectively and relocating to Society of Work in The Edney offers just that—we are thrilled to be around a strong community of innovators and entrepreneurs.”

"CWLI conducted a study earlier this year that confirmed the organization’s programs were achieving positive leadership outcomes for participating members. Research shows that CWLI members achieved individual growth and felt a sense of empowerment and confidence as leaders in their career, developed awareness of new opportunities to enhance leadership capabilities and honed in on skills to strengthen leadership effectiveness and influence," officials said.

“Our organization has evolved substantially over the past 21 years, and our focus now is to expand exponentially opportunities for women in our region by spotlighting solutions and best practices that push past women’s leadership barriers,” said Stefanie Crowe, CWLI board chair. “Almost half of the CWLI members that participated in January’s survey acknowledged that leadership obstacles they face most commonly include a lack of professional and personal development opportunities as well as missing more women in existing leadership roles who can inspire, mentor and  sponsor younger leaders.  Additionally, heightening awareness and providing companies with tools to address systemic issues will help reduce instances of discrimination and bias. Studies continue to surface with evidence that gender-diversity leads to a higher level of performance; the companies that don’t invest in this effort will not thrive.” 

"Another strategic priority for the organization is to improve the racial and ethnic diversity of membership and volunteer leadership so that it will match that of the Chattanooga service area by 2022. CWLI is hiring a new staff member this fall to provide administrative support so the existing two-member team can focus on achieving these strategic goals. In addition, the organization’s program manager, Marlena Palmer, will be taking on greater responsibilities, building on her two and half years of successful programmatic and operational leadership that has seen membership double during her tenure," officials said.

“We have a great team, a board of directors with vision, and effective programming but we know we can do more,” said Ms. Ashley. “Now we are reinvesting in ourselves so we can invest in other women and achieve our mission.”

"As Society of Work grows with members like CWLI, so does opportunity for our members,” said Kelly Fitzgerald, founder of Society of Work. “Our community is built around collaboration and connections, and our members’ accelerated business growth demonstrates how effective working together is. According to a recent member survey, 30 percent of members hired new employees in 2016, over 80 percent had professional collaborations with other members and 75 percent of those people didn’t know each other before they joined Society of Work. We are looking forward to working closely with CWLI and opening the doors for new collaborations and ideas that come from the addition of new Society of Work members."

For more on CWLI and information on becoming a member, call 423-394-8173.