The History of Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media

The Leadership Academy for Women in (Digital) Media was founded in 2015 in partnership with ONA. The joint program became overwhelmingly popular with hundreds of applicants for just 28 spots, so ONA branched off in 2017 to host a sister program and serve more women in the industry. In 2018, Poynter continued to serve the need for formal leadership training by expanding to three academies each year.

As of 2023, more than 550 women have graduated from Poynter’s leadership program alone. Many volunteer as mentors on Digital Women Leaders, which is owned and operated by program co-founder Katie Hawkins-Gaar. In a 2023 survey of Leadership Academy for Women in Media alumni from the last eight years, we learned:

  • 75% of respondents have more confidence in themselves and the industry
  • 72% use something they learned during the academy at least once per week
  • 60% took on new or expanded leadership roles

“Because of the academy, I am leading the Pivot Fund,” Tracie Powell, member of the original cohort in 2015, recently said. “The program helped me see the bigger picture in terms of what I was meant to be doing. Now I invest in news organizations who are on the front lines of providing critical information to local communities. Without the women’s leadership academy, I don’t think I would have been thinking big enough.”

Past Poynter participants:

Past Poynter instructors:

Note: Titles and employers may not be up-to-date.

Masuma Ahuja

Sarah Alvarez

Kainaz Amaria

Moni Basu

Melissa Bell

Jennifer Brandel

LaSharah Bunting

Emma Carew Grovum

Maria Carrillo

Sushil Cheema

Kari Cobham

Sherri Day

Kat Downs Mulder

Meghann Farnsworth

Dr. Michelle Ferrier

Candice Fortman (Knight Fellow)

Tracy Grant

Mel Grau

Adrienne Green

Megan Greenwell

Stephanie Hayes

Charo Henríquez

Sabrina Hersi Issa

Mandy Hofmockel

S. Mitra Kalita

Áine Kerr

Sara Konrad Baranowski

Mira Lowe

Joy Mayer

Kelly McBride

Raju Narisetti

Sitara Nieves

Amy O’Leary

Carol Pauli

Erin Peterson

Lauren Rabaino

Samantha Ragland

Gloria Riviera

Destinée-Charisse Royal

Vivian Schiller

Andrea Schneider

Swati Sharma

Chris Sheridan