October 26, 2020

Updated on Oct. 27

Now in its seventh year, the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media has transformed the careers of more than 400 women in news media and tech. Applications for the 2021 program are now open!

There will be three separate classes for Poynter’s 2021 program, held May 2-7, 2021 (Spring), Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2021 (Fall) and Nov. 7-12, 2020 (Winter) at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Florida. There will be one application to seat all 2021 classes, and it is open until Nov. 30, 2020.

To answer your first question: Yes, you are awesome and should probably apply.

What are the important dates in the application and selection process?

  • Applications open: Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
  • Applications close: Monday, Nov. 30, 2020
  • Selected applicants announced: February 2021
  • Spring class: May 2-7, 2021
  • Fall class: Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2021
  • Winter class: Nov. 7-12, 2021

For each class, we evaluate both the individuals and the group as a whole: We look for a rich mix of diversity across multiple areas. We also give great consideration to the strengths and weaknesses of the groups; we aim to select a cohort of women who complement one another so that, even after the program ends, the participants can lean heavily upon one another to continue growing and successfully challenging the status quo of the media industry. Therefore, accepted applicants will be placed into one of three classes. Under only extenuating circumstances will we move participants around or defer enrollment.

What about COVID-19 and possible travel restrictions?
As we’re selecting cohorts for next year, we are being mindful of each applicant’s place of residence. Our goal is to ensure diversity within each cohort while also placing our international participants in later cohorts to line up closer with travel guidelines. We are committed to in-person training in 2021; however, we are fully prepared to pivot to a virtual-only program if public health guidelines require it.

Who is the ideal candidate for the Leadership Academy for Women in Media?
English-speaking women from journalism, media and technology organizations all over the world are encouraged to apply. If you think you could benefit from this program, you should probably apply!

This program is designed for women who directly manage people and are within their first 1-5 years of formal leadership experience. You can be an early-career journalist stepping into your third year as a manager or you can be a veteran journalist stepping into your first in management — either way, this program was created for you to become a self-aware leader and an effective manager. A cross-discipline understanding of the media landscape is a plus. Make your application as strong as possible by reviewing this checklist put together by lead faculty, Samantha Ragland.

Is this program open to all female-identifying and nonbinary applicants?
Absolutely.

I don’t work for a news company. Can I apply?
Please feel free to apply, but know that we place a priority on journalists who work for news companies. Freelancers must demonstrate their potential to have a positive impact on the media industry.

Can I apply if I live outside the U.S.?
Yes! The academy is open to English-fluent international applicants. Participants will cover their own tuition and travel costs as program funding from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is limited to U.S.-based applicants.

I applied for the academy before and wasn’t selected. Why should I apply again?
If you don’t get accepted the first or even the second time, we encourage you to apply again! We trust our process in selecting each cohort, and we aim for every woman to graduate from this program with a close-knit cohort of like-minded but differently gifted women to navigate career and life for years to come.

Prior to submitting your application, we encourage you to seek feedback with our alum. You can find many of them listed with open office hours on digitalwomenleaders.com, a coaching site launched by program co-founder Katie Hawkins-Gaar.

What do you mean by “an example of a digital project you’ve worked on”?
While we’ve omitted “digital” from the name of this program, digital work and innovation is no less important. After all, the Poynter Institute is all about helping the journalism industry be sustainable for years to come.

The project can be anything you’ve worked on, either solo or as a team. This could be a substantial story or series of stories, a website, an app, or anything else in the digital space. In some cases, there may not be one specific final product to point to — you may have coordinated a social media campaign or a real-life event, for example. In that case, explain your involvement and leadership in the project, and your supporting link could be to a hashtag or series of social posts that are a good representation of the work you’ve done.

In addition to looking for an example of your work in the digital space, we’re looking for your self-reflection. Beyond getting the job done, why was it important to do at all? Who benefited? How did it challenge or change the way your newsroom approaches content, community engagement, sponsorship — you name it. We want to see that you understand the importance of your work and the implications of this work to your growth as a leader.

Can you tell me what you’re looking for with the letter of recommendation?
We recommend you ask someone who works closely with you who could speak to your demonstrated and potential leadership ability and/or grasp of digital media. While this person does not need to be your direct supervisor, it does need to be a person who can put your management style and leadership capacity into context — not just praising you but also noting where you have opportunities to grow.

The letter should address these questions:

  1. What can the applicant learn from this seminar that they can later use to benefit others in their organization?
  2. What leadership traits does this person already possess and how can we help the applicant improve their skills?

We suggest sharing our program page so the person recommending you can be fully informed before submitting the letter.

How long should a letter of recommendation be?
Due to the volume of applications we receive, please keep recommendation letters to roughly one page. You will need to be ready to copy and paste the recommendation (so, no need for fancy letterhead!) when you submit your application.

To whom should my recommendation letter be addressed?
Since a team from Poynter and volunteers from a variety of journalism organizations will be assisting with the selection process, we suggest addressing recommendation letters to the selection committee, without specific names.

Will it help my chances if I submit more than one recommendation?
We commend your enthusiasm. Please remember that we have a large volume of applications, so select your single strongest recommendation to send with your application.

Any other tips for application success?
Don’t forget to take ownership of your accomplishments. Be clear about your contributions as you draft your bio and project description, even if you worked as part of a team. And while bragging about yourself and your successes is important, it’s also helpful for our panel of readers to see how you think you’ll benefit from this intensive training program. This means being honest with where you see opportunities to grow.

Why is tuition charged?
Tuition is $1,095 and covers six days of teaching from prominent faculty, one-on-one coaching and networking, including social activities. Participants receive a facilitated 360 review and will work with a certified trainer to review their personality inventory. Tuition also goes toward continued support after the academy as part of The Cohort.

As a nonprofit, Poynter works to keep program costs low and participation accessible to women from all types of media organizations and locations. Each year, we secure sponsorships to further offset costs, and we offer need-based scholarships and travel stipends to U.S.-based journalists. There is a spot on the application to let us know if you require financial aid.

We find that organizations understand the value of Poynter leadership programs and are willing to invest. In our three-year impact survey of graduates from the Leadership Academy for Women in Media:

  • 76% have improved the working dynamics of one or more teams
  • 81% got promoted or have more job responsibilities
  • 76% use something they learned every day or at least once a week

Worried about asking your employer to contribute to your development through this program? Here are some tips for getting them to say “yes.”

How does this program differ from ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator?
ONA and Poynter collaboratively designed the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media, which helped train, mentor and connect 53 women journalists in 2015 and 2016. This successful precursor to the current programs attracted strong applications from nearly 1,000 women at different stages of their careers. At the conclusion of the two-year partnership between Poynter and ONA, it became clear that the demand for quality leadership training for women in digital media warranted expansion.

We are thrilled that we have been able to increase the amount of trainings available by offering two distinct programs.

Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media is a weeklong, in-depth program designed to help leaders with up to five years of people-management experience move to the next level in their careers. Each academy will include inspiring talks, hands-on activities, candid discussions and networking opportunities all focused on building women’s leadership and management skills. Cohort members will create practical leadership development plans they can implement as they return to the newsroom, and they will receive one-on-one coaching during and after the academy to ensure personal success.

ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator is a year-long, intensive program that supercharges the leadership and management skills of women who are pushing digital innovation. Participants focus on a challenge specific to their careers and learn leadership skills and tools for navigating change. The Accelerator is tuition-free and requires two in-person commitments during the year. It kicks off with a week of tailored, immersive programming in March, provides support and coaching to participants throughout the year and culminates with a workshop in the fall, coordinated around ONA’s annual conference.

You’re welcome to apply to both programs, but you can participate in only one. ONA and Poynter coordinate during the selection process and work to pair participants with the cohort that will be the best fit for them.

If you still have questions after reading this page, please contact seminars@poynter.org.

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