IIE Launches Global Community for Women’s Leadership with $3 Million in Seed Funding

NEW YORK, May 15, 2024 — At its signature IIE Honors event today, the Institute of International Education launched a new initiative to support the advancement and retention of women in professional leadership positions worldwide. The Global Community for Women’s Leadership (GCWL) will connect and lift aspiring, ascendant, and senior women leaders across industries through in-person and virtual networking events, thematic lectures, skills development modules, career coaching, and a curated virtual platform.   

“The Global Community for Women’s Leadership is a first-of-its-kind network which leverages IIE’s unique position at the forefront of international education and exchange to meaningfully close the gender gap in leadership around the world,” said A. Sarah Ilchman, Co-President of IIE. “By empowering women changemakers to step into, and remain, in positions of leadership we can reshape the global workforce and accelerate societal equity.”

The global community leverages IIE’s unique position as the administrator of more than 200 education and workforce development programs across 180 countries, reaching over 30,000 participants – over half of whom identify as women. By tapping into the thousands who participate in these existing networks and programs, the community is poised to grow exponentially each year.

By most indicators, the international community is behind on achieving the gender equality Sustainable Development Goal by 2030, with current UN projections forecasting it will take 140 years for women to achieve gender parity in the global workforce. Women comprise more than half of students in higher education, but they comprise just over a quarter of management worldwide. Out of 195 countries around the world, women serve as head of state in 15 and head of government in 16; and less than 30% of the world’s parliamentarians are women. In addition, the World Economic Forum reports that while labor force participation is gradually increasing among women worldwide, years’ worth of progress was lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and has not fully recovered to its 2009 peak.

IIE has a long history of creating and managing programs to help achieve gender parity in education and careers. Previous initiatives and sponsored programs include USAID’s Investing in Women in Development program in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Africa; the U.S. Department of State’s Women in Technology program in the Middle East; the WeTech program for girls studying computer science in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the United States; the Higher Education Readiness (HER) program, which has funded 200 scholarships for girls in Ethiopia to prepare for tertiary education; and the IIE Odyssey Scholarship, which supports displaced and refugee students, particularly providing a lifeline to women in regions where gender can make schooling out of reach.

With the launch of GCWL, IIE aims to build on its legacy and create more pathways for women to succeed.

“This initiative stands out because it not only provides mentorship, but also cultivates a supportive ecosystem and network where women can lift one another and excel,” said Nina Smith, IIE’s Senior Vice President, Chief Philanthropy Officer. “The Community will, no doubt, have a transformative impact on generations to come.” 

GCWL’s virtual platform — launching next year— will be complimented by in-person meet-ups and events, including conversations and resources for people of all genders to better support issues women face in the workplace and implement positive changes. The platform will, among other features, offer a skills development suite covering topics such as advocacy, allyship, fundraising, negotiation, networking, persuasive communication, technology, and more.

To learn more about the Global Community for Women’s Leadership, visit: https://www.iie.org/GCWL.

About the Institute of International Education
Established in 1919, IIE is a global not-for-profit that creates and implements international education programs, conducts research, and provides life-changing opportunities for students and scholars worldwide. IIE collaborates with a range of corporate, government, and foundation partners across the globe to design and manage scholarships, study abroad, workforce training, and leadership development programs. IIE has a network of 17 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,450 member institutions. Visit iie.org.

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