photo of Virginia Women's Municipal Leadership Institute's 2022 graduates

VGA's Monica Elder (second from right) is one of the first 22 graduates of the Virginia Women's Municipal Leadership Institute. Elder is Economic Developer for Charlotte County, one of VGA's valued member localities.

A partnership between the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center and Virginia Women Leading Government, the institute is designed to strengthen the career pipeline for female community leaders. Across Virginia, only 17 percent of top government positions are held by women, according to the Local Government Diversity Dashboard.

Institute coordinator Bonnie Svrcek, the first female city manager of Lynchburg before her retirement in 2020, says that number is unacceptable.

"It is critical for communities to have leadership that reflects the demographic of their towns, cities, and counties. Inclusive leadership makes for better decision-making and therefore stronger communities," Svrcek said.

The Virginia Women's Municipal Leadership Institute builds leadership skills, and even more important, Svrcek said, confidence skills among women to even apply for the jobs. "We need to make women see that we're all on a lifelong learning journey. Women tend to want to check all the boxes before they apply for a job, but some things we learn by doing." 

The women participated in eight monthly gatherings, alternating between virtual and in-person sessions around the state. Virginia Tech faculty members and other experts presented workshops on topics incorporating both technical duties such as budgeting and "soft skills" such as public speaking and work-life balance.

Scott Weimer, who leads the Roanoke Center, said the institute was a natural fit. "The Virginia Women's Municipal Leadership Institute builds on our diverse portfolio of leadership programs. It's a wonderful example of the ways we help build stronger communities across the commonwealth, from connecting with Virginia Tech faculty experts to providing support with program logistics and planning."

excerpt from VTRC news release

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