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The Women in Leadership Institute Kicks Off before 2,000 Women Leaders | Key Insights from Day 1 of #WILinstitute

November 13, 2023 Kristen Howe
The Women in Leadership Institute Kicks Off before 3,000 Women

The 24th annual Women in Leadership Institute™ (WIL) is here!

This afternoon, we kicked off a four-day conference designed by and for women leaders. Continuing a tradition we began just three years ago, we are meeting both in-person in Orlando, Florida, and broadcasting live to women leaders around the world through our virtual platform.

At WIL, more than 2,000 women leaders will be joining us for a week focused exclusively on themselves and their own development.

Consider this: The Women in Leadership Institute will reach thousands of women leaders this week, but the impact doesn’t stop there.

After WIL concludes, these women leaders will return to their teams, organizations and their personal lives totally energized and inspired—and prepared with new insights that will allow them to soar.

I am reflecting on McKinsey’s October 2023 Women in the Workplace Report that states: Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic. Here’s what I know for sure: Women cannot go it alone. When we are isolated, we are missing our spark of inspiration. And to overcome these challenges and to lead others, we all need a community of supporters and champions.

That’s why the Women in Leadership Institute is so powerful. Above all, the WIL experience is about community. Over the next four days, passionate and engaged women leaders will come together to share insights and learn from one other, but they will also become friends and mentors, allies and champions for one another.

Each year, I hear from WIL alumni who continue to return to the Institute and who meet with their fellow alums throughout the year through the WIL Accelerator program and informal meet-ups. The connections that come from WIL are life-changing for these women.

The theme for WIL2023 is ReCHARGE, ReIMAGINE, ReIGNITE. As we come together for a week of learning, we recharge our energy, reimagine what is possible for us on our leadership journeys, and gain the insights we need to reignite our leadership potential.

WIL is all about your empowerment as a woman leader—what could be more impactful than that?

Be sure to follow along here on the Linkage Leadership Insights blog for coverage from each day of the conference and follow us on social media for in-the-moment insights.


We kicked off the Institute by hearing from Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage. Jennifer discussed her new book, In Her Own Voice, which launched today at WIL! In Her Own Voice is “the next chapter” in Linkage’s story of advancing women in leadership, representing the latest thinking and data around the advancement of women in the workplace. Jennifer shared personal and professional insights driven by Linkage’s research, the evolving expectations of leaders in the workplace, and her own leadership journey. She also introduced us to the Inner Critic and seven other Hurdles that women face on their path to advancement.

Jennifer shared some key insights from her new book, including:

  • The business case for elevating women in leadership is as strong as ever—by every metric, when women are at the top, organizations succeed. But the business case has not moved the needle as much as we have hoped—we must also make an emotional appeal to create passionate champions for gender equity.
  • Women score higher than men on every leadership effectiveness element Linkage measures, including and especially evolving new expectations of leadership, such as inclusion, vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity. “Women do not need to be fixed. We are exceptional leaders,” said Jennifer.
  • There are four key dimensions organizations need to focus on to advance their women:
    • Culture
    • People Systems and Processes
    • Executive Action
    • Focused Leadership Development for Women
  • The Inner Critic and the Seven Hurdles form the backbone of Linkage’s approach to advancing women leaders, and Jennifer shared how her own leadership journey has mapped to these Hurdles with a wealth of personal anecdotes:
    • The struggle to combat the Internal Bias that might hold us back
    • Finding Clarity by discovering what you truly want for yourself o
    • Learning to say “no” in favor of more strategic “yeses” to Prove Your Value
    • Facing imposter syndrome and embracing our Recognized Confidence
    • Ensuring that you are showing up how you want to be perceived with your leadership Branding & Presence
    • Making the Ask for what you really want, with the expectation that you could get it
    • Networking in order to nurture and activate a group of people who can help you get where you want to go
  • It will take all of us to truly change the face of leadership—so take the time this week at WIL to focus on what you want for yourself, how you can get there, and how you can lift others up on the way. Look out for those who need to be reminded of their worth and their readiness—you could be the spark that ignites a powerful new flame for a woman leader.


Do you seek and utilize reflective and in-the-moment self-knowledge? Do you recognize the value you bring?

The “Aware” competency is all about your ability to understand yourself and stay in tune with your value—and your needs. Aware leaders are open-minded in thinking about their capability and potential to achieve. They don’t put limits on what is possible. They know how to best leverage their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses in order to achieve goals. And they keenly consider the impact their behavior has on others. Because of this, they control and filter their emotions in a constructive manner, empowering others around them to grow in a healthy environment—and letting themselves thrive.

Shannon Bayer, Principal Consultant at Linkage, shared her insights into one of the most prominent hurdles to women’s advancement in the workplace, the “Inner Critic.” This hurdle is especially relevant given today’s stressful environment, which requires us to juggle our home and work responsibilities.

The Inner Critic is the voice in our head that, when unmanaged, causes us to speak or act in a way that is “one up”—better than others, or “one down”—judgmental of ourselves. These feelings negatively impact our relationships, our brand, our outcomes, even our career aspirations.

Shannon presented these tips for managing your Inner Critic:

  • It’s up to us to understand what factors in our environment trigger our Inner Critic. When we develop awareness, we can learn to manage the noise in our head that can lead to chaos in our lives. But it’s not easy—developing self-awareness takes an enormous amount of energy. It requires you to care about your impact on others, and your impact on yourself.
  • What we think and feel drives what we say and do. Leadership begins with us. We must understand ourselves to lead effectively—and to navigate the hurdles that impact us as women leaders.
  • We can practice returning to Compassionate Center with four simple steps:
  1. Become aware (notice your Inner Critic and what triggers it, and the physical and mental signs that it is active)
  2. Push pause (stop doing, start thinking)
  3. Be compassionate (be kind to yourself and others)
  4. Get curious (ask yourself: “What’s going on here?”)
  • The Inner Critic is not static—it often bounces between one up and one down, even in the same conversation. The Inner Critic wants to take you to extremes, but the goal is Compassionate Center.
  • Compassion is not just about what we give others—it’s what we allow ourselves to receive. Remember that the practice of returning to our Compassionate Center is ongoing—strive for your best effort, not perfection. Can you give yourself grace?
  • There is power in shifting from an Inner Critic to an Inner Coach—and that power helps us harness our full potential and bring out the potential of others. The Inner Coach helps us lead with curiosity instead of simply reacting to situations.

What’s next at the Women in Leadership Institute? Tomorrow, women leaders in attendance will hear from Carla Harris on the “Influential” competency and Reshma Saujani on the “Inspiring” competency. Be sure to continue to follow along on the Linkage Leadership Insights blog and on social media for in-the-moment insights.

Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute is taking place November 13–16, 2023.

Didn’t get a chance to join us for the experience? The Women in Leadership returns in 2024! Find more information here.   

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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