Women's Leadership Initiative

The Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is an expression of the University of Montana’s commitment to gender equity in leadership and effort to build empowering institutions that improve opportunities for women. Founded in 2015, the initiative uses a cohort model to build the leadership capacity of faculty, administrators, and staff from both inside and outside the university.

WLI cohort members participate in leadership trainings; spend dedicated time with campus, community, and state leaders; and lead community events to build awareness of the cultural factors that both impede and enhance women’s advancement in leadership.


The Women’s Leadership Initiative serves a cohort of employees who are mid-career at the University of Montana and Clearwater Credit Union.WLI is part of the University of Montana's SEA Change Initiative and is made possible through a partnership with Clearwater Credit Union.

The 2021-22 WLI cohort will be led by Charity Atteberry, director of student services in the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at UM. Dr. Christine Fiore, will continue as lead coach and provides participants with training and coaching.


WLI empowers cohort members to identify personal strengths and areas for growth relative to leadership roles, and articulate their vision and goals for their career paths. Cohort members expand and deepen their networks, develop and enhance professional relationships, and build bridges across organizations.

As an initiative, WLI works toward institution change (in systems, processes, and culture) to build empowering institutions that improve leadership opportunities for women.

In the community, WLI has built a network of allies, supporters, and mentors to empower women. The partnership with Clearwater Credit Union forms an important bridge between the University of Montana and the broader Missoula community.

Student reaction to a WLI panel and discussion organized by WLI participants:

"The WLI forum shifted—if not changed—my life... I internally realized that I do have the power and capability to shape my life. No longer will I dismiss the idea of empowerment as a phenomenon that happens to other people. I can feel empowered, and I am empowered.”
- Bethany Cramer, Microbiology student at UM


Applications for the 2021-2022 Women's Leadership Initiative Cohort will be accepted through June 1, 2021. Please see our WLI Application webpage for specific application criteria and a submission form. A new cohort of mid-career employees at UM and Clearwater Credit Union will be selected by July 1, 2021 to convene late August 2021 through early May 2022.

While employees are welcome to apply on their own, we are also seeking nominations for high-potential employees from diverse backgrounds. If you would like to encourage one of your employees or colleagues to apply, please nominate them by May 10 using this WLI nomination form.


For more information or suggestions, please contact Nicky Phear at nicky.phear@umontana.edu.