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What BIPOC Women Leaders Need to Thrive

For over 30 years, Public Allies (PA) has implemented a paid ten-month apprenticeship program which focuses on leadership development through community building, individual reflection, and service at a nonprofit organization. PA’s programming is designed to cultivate often overlooked talent, focused on those who come from economically marginalized communities and who are poised to become civic leaders when provided with guidance and opportunity. PA’s program model cultivates a values-based leadership approach, modeled through its “10+1 Leadership Actions,” which focus on the individual actions each of us can take in service to building community, problem solving, and reflection.

To gain a better understanding of what women-identified participants want and need to thrive in their leadership, Public Allies initiated an evaluation of program alumnae in partnership with Fondation CHANEL. Here are some of our findings:


Women view their leadership as narrative and holistic

Women who participated in the evaluation’s initial visioning session nearly unanimously conveyed that finding one’s voice was one of the most pronounced impacts that PA had on their lives, and that they continued to practice shaping their narratives as leaders. In addition, women did not differentiate their leadership in the different spheres of their lives (i.e., work and family) but viewed it as interconnected and holistic.


Relationships are key across the lifespan of a woman’s leadership

Whether through mentors, coaches, or senior women in their field, women at all stages of their leadership development are looking for relationships that inspire and support them. For example, women early in their career are interested in building their networking skill, while mid-career women are looking specifically to network with senior women and women of color in their fields.


Healing can be a crucial component of leadership development and finding one’s power

Many women shared stories of being supported and challenged in ways that helped them grow. In particular, the cohort model of the Public Allies program was uplifted as a community that offered a kind of communal support that was deeply affirming and helped propel participants to grow professionally.


Women are eager to share their experience and lead within the social sector

Evaluation findings suggest that women may become more committed to social transformation as they progress in their careers, and are more attuned to the value of sharing their personal journeys to influence and innovate. “My experience is my expertise,” said one participant.



Public Allies is dedicated to disrupting systems that impact marginalized communities, while listening, learning, and working together across differences to build the common good. Join us.