Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media (2021)

DEADLINE TO APPLY: Applications closed
Spring: May 2-7, 2021
Fall: Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2021
Winter: Nov. 7-12, 2021

LOCATION: The Poynter Institute
COST: $1,095


  • Travel to Poynter in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, for six days of intensive, transformational learning
  • Deeply connect with your cohort of 30 diverse women and join an alumnae group of more than 400 women leaders
  • Process feedback from your boss, direct reports and peers with a Poynter coach
  • Explore your personal communication styles as a manager
  • Chart your unique, winding career path based on how you define success
  • Accepted applicants will be placed into one of three distinct academies in 2021 occurring May 2-7, Sept. 26-Oct. 1 and Nov. 7-12


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. During a week often described as overflowing with “Poynter magic,” each participant learns to manage teams more effectively, hone and communicate their strategic vision and steer their organizations toward success. But perhaps more important, graduates of the Poynter Academy and ONA’s partner program, the Women’s Leadership Accelerator, join a global community of support.

This sisterhood is established during the program through honest, candid and often vulnerable conversations, hands-on activities, formal and informal social activities, and shared experiences. Each participant’s network expands after the program as graduates from different classes network, connect online and in person, and even mentor each other.

We will host three women’s leadership academies in 2021, in Spring, Fall and Winter, each open to 30 participants:

  • Spring: May 2-7, 2021
  • Fall: Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2021
  • Winter: Nov. 7-12, 2021

We plan to host these programs in-person at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, if public health guidelines require the academy to be offered completely virtually, we are confident the experience will be just as robust. As we’re selecting cohorts for next year, we are also 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.

Key lessons

Each leadership academy is unique, with different instructors, new workshops and a diverse mix of participants from all over the world. We structure sessions to encourage open and candid discussion and exploration of leadership issues unique to women and female-identifying participants. We provide mentoring in group sessions and one on one. Key lessons will be how to:

  • Defeat imposter syndrome
  • Find better work-life chemistry
  • More effectively handle burnout and anxiety
  • Tackle difficult conversations, including #MeToo situations
  • Navigate ethical issues in the newsroom
  • Understand approaches to managing change
  • Create space for diverse talent
  • Advocate for yourself and others
  • Build a stronger team

Poynter directly impacts your career

We launched our Leadership Academy for Women in Media in 2015. And by 2018, the program attracted more than 600 applicants. Why? The Poynter women’s leadership training alters careers and changes lives. In a 2018 survey of graduates from our first three years of the program, we learned:

  • 81% got promoted or have more job responsibilities
  • 83% make more money, with half making substantially more money
  • 76% have a clearer vision of what’s important in their career

To serve the need for more women-focused leadership training, Poynter expanded the academy in 2018 to include three cohorts. We now annually teach 90 women through the leadership academy, and more than 400 women have graduated from Poynter’s program.

Follow #PoynterWomenLeaders or #PoynterSisters to see the first hand experience of past participants.

“I didn’t realize magic was happening when I was in the class,” said Dhiya Gerber in 2018. Gerber is a women’s leadership academy alumna and instructor and manager at Microsoft. “I realized it two weeks later. And I’m realizing it every day two years later. Those five days are not when your life changes. It’s the experience of those five days that end up changing your life after you’re very far from St. Petersburg.”

Learn from prominent women leaders

Samantha Ragland, now Poynter faculty, taught “The Secret to Turning Every Moment Into a Mic Drop” during the February 2020 Leadership Academy for Women in Media.

Samantha Ragland, Poynter’s newest faculty member and an alumna of the 2016 Leadership Academy for Women, will lead and oversee the 2021 program. Ragland specializes in developing journalists as people and professionals, reinventing local news, and advocating for diversity and inclusion. Learn more about Ragland here.

Ragland will be joined by other Poynter faculty (see below). Guest instructors and keynote speakers for 2021 will be announced closer to the seminar dates. Recent keynote speakers include:

  • Korva Coleman, newscaster, NPR
  • Lydia Polgreen, editor in chief, HuffPost
  • Charo Henríquez, editor, newsroom development and support, The New York Times

For an idea of the type of guest instructors we might feature in 2021, see all of the instructors and participants from past Poynter programs.

Important dates

  • Applications open: Oct. 26, 2020
  • Applications close: Nov. 30, 2020
  • Participant confirmation for all cohorts: February 2021


Here are some frequently asked questions. Check out lead faculty Samantha Ragland’s checklist for submitting a strong application. And subscribe to Poynter’s newsletter for women kicking ass in media, The Cohort.

If you still need assistance, email us at seminars@poynter.org.

We will host three women’s leadership academies in 2021, in Spring, Fall and Winter, each open to 30 participants:

  • Spring: May 2-7, 2021
  • Fall: Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2021
  • Winter: Nov. 7-12, 2021

We plan to host these programs in-person at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, if public health guidelines require the academy to be offered completely virtually, we are confident the experience will be just as robust.

“I think you did a terrific job translating the seminar to virtual,” wrote one participant in the September 2020 cohort, which was held online. “I was SO SO SO impressed by all the Poynter faculty and speakers.”

“It was phenomenal virtually, so I can only imagine it in person,” another participant from the September 2020 cohort agreed.

There is one application to seat all three classes in 2021; Poynter will provide plenty of notice if you are accepted. The application period is Oct. 26, 2020-Nov. 30, 2020. 

Who should apply

This is one of Poynter’s most competitive programs. It 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.

“The Leadership Academy finally gave me leadership and management training — something I’d never received. And I use it every single day,” shared Sara Konrad Baranowski, the editor of the Iowa Falls Times-Citizen and a 2017 program graduate. “I think about what I learned, I go back over my notes, I look at my personal development plan … maybe it was more than career-changing. Maybe it was a little bit life-changing too.”

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! You’ll find details about our scholarship opportunities below.

We value diversity and seek to create a rich mix of personal and professional experience in each class. A positive group dynamic is essential to the success of this program.

Participants are selected after multiple rounds of review with an emphasis on ensuring diversity across race, ethnicity, geography, age, platform/medium, organization size, and expertise. We aim to create a cohort of women from diverse career backgrounds, including TV, radio, digital-only, journalism-adjacent (such as LinkedIn and the International Women’s Media Foundation) start-ups and nonprofits.

Reviewers include a volunteer committee of program alum, Poynter staff and faculty. Poynter coordinates with ONA to ensure acceptance to only one leadership program for women (either Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media or ONA’s Leadership Accelerator).

Review our checklist for submitting a strong application.


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.

Participants (or their employers) are responsible for travel costs (here’s advice about asking your boss for support).

The Poynter Institute is offering need-based tuition scholarships and travel support  — thanks to funding from the John S. and James L Knight Foundation — for U.S.-based journalists in local news, nonprofits and startups, as well as for women of color. Funding for Poynter’s women’s leadership academy currently does not support international applicants who are still encouraged to apply but, if accepted, must be able to pay tuition and travel expenses.