Nora Amos, Director of Planning and Community Development for the Town of Ashland recently completed the Virginia Women’s Municipal Leadership Institute, a partnership between Virginia Women Leading Government and the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center to provide women aspiring to become local government leaders with connections, content, tools, and opportunities to develop their skills further and broaden their network.
Through this program, Amos and 24 other high-potential women from across the Commonwealth attended sessions designed to develop both their skills and confidence to pursue positions as community leaders.
In Virginia, only 17% of top local government-appointed chief administrative officials are held by women, according to diversity dashboard.org. To institute coordinator Bonnie Svrcek, the first female city manager of Lynchburg before her retirement in 2020, 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. “In the private sector research has shown that companies with mixed-gender leadership have better profit margins. There is no doubt that mixed gender leadership in local government leadership yields stronger communities.”
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 life as an executive woman in local government.
“Participating in the Virginia Women’s Municipal Leadership Institute was a very fulfilling experience that reignited my passion to continue to serve my community," Amos said. "I look forward to continuing to grow the connections and friendships made with fellow women leaders from around the state. I am grateful to The Virginia Risk Sharing Association (VRSA) for providing a grant to cover the cost of tuition for my participation.”
“The institute is a perfect example of how the Roanoke Center and the university’s other Commonwealth Campus Centers located in Richmond, Abingdon, and Newport News connect their communities with university resources," said Scott Weimer, executive director of Roanoke Regional Initiatives.
“The Virginia Women’s Municipal Leadership Institute is developing a new generation of leaders who are poised to enhance local government across the commonwealth with a wealth of diverse perspectives and skills," he said. “Through this program, we’re helping these leaders and the communities they serve achieve their full potential.”
Applications for the institute’s 2024 cohort will be accepted later this year, with sessions running from March to October. For more information, contact Bonnie Svrcek.