Women Innovating Labor Leadership (WILL) Empower 


Women Innovating Labor Leadership (WILL) Empower is a bold and ambitious new initiative to identify, nurture, train, and convene a new generation of women labor leaders. WILL Empower employs a broad, multi-pronged approach that interfaces with women on multiple levels and through interwoven programs. 

WILL Empower is a national program, jointly housed at Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization in the School of Management and Labor Relations in New Jersey and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor in Washington, DC. It is the legacy project of the Berger-Marks Foundation. We proudly introduce WILL Empower's Advisory Council. View our council membersRead more about the WILL Empower initiative via The American Prospect and visit the WILL Empower website

 Our programs include:

Latest Updates

The Executive Leadership Cohort has been extended through December 2020 to adapt to our new COVID reality.  Monthly virtual learning sessions kicked off in April, with a session focused on continuing to lead and build leadership skills in these tumultuous and complex times. The second virtual learning session on May 28, 2020 is focused on financial planning, and features a panel of current and former WILL Empower Advisory Council members:

  • Aleyamma Mathew, Executive Director Collective Future Fund
  • Princess Moss, NEA Secretary-Treasurer
  • Laine Romero-Alston, Senior Program Officer Open Society Fund
  • Sara Steffens, CWA Secretary-Treasurer
  • NEW blog post by WILL Empower Co-Director Lane Windham:  COVID-19 is a Perfect Storm for Women Workers
  • The WILL Empower communities of learning and practice came together in March 2020 to share strategies about leading during the stressful COVID-19 pandemic. Apprentices, Emerging Leaders, and Executive Leaders joined video conferences with their respective communities of learning & practice to share solidarity and insight into the balance of leading at their organizations and as caregivers in their families.  Leaders were eager to share their organization's resources for communication and policy in this time of upheaval, as well as personal, grounding sources for keeping mentally & emotionally well when there is so much out of our control.  Participants expressed gratitude and relief at connecting with other leaders who are persevering in a similar professional role. CIWO is glad to be able to create these spaces for leaders to connect and thrive, even in uncertainty.



Innovative Women Fellowships

The fellowship program invites applications from activists who need time and support to develop new ideas for advancing social and economic justice in today’s transforming economy, especially on issues that impact women workers and organizing. The program will leverage university resources to enrich the fellowships, and includes a stipend and robust mentoring support. The fellowships will run from three to four months.

Cohorts of Collective Learning and Mentoring

WILL Empower will build new cohorts of learning among two groups of women involved in labor and economic justice organizations: next-generation leaders in early stages of their work life and experienced women ready to advance. The experienced cohort is designed to build a pipeline for senior leadership roles in unions and other worker justice organizations. Both groups will benefit from individualized leadership plans, cohort gatherings, a dynamic mentorship program, and curated trainings. There will be multiple cohort classes taking place throughout the program. For more information on joining our WILL Empower cohorts, contact willempower.labor[at]gmail.com.

Apprenticeship Program

The apprenticeship program is a recruitment and on-ramp platform for staff positions; it is designed to seed the movement by steering promising candidates toward labor work at an early career stage. Though there are a number of internship programs available to college students, recent graduates or people who did not go to college often have difficulty entering staff positions. The early-job programs that do exist tend to focus only on organizing.

We are accepting applications for the Apprenticeship program until May 15, 2020. Click here to apply!

WILL Empower will recruit recent college graduates and rank-and-file activists and place them in staff apprenticeships with unions and worker organizations in a range of capacities, such as in policy, research, communications, organizing, politics and civil and human rights. The apprentices will receive strong mentoring and support, and will participate in the learning cohort. The apprenticeship will run from three to twelve months. To become or host a WILL Empower apprentice at your organization, contact willempower.labor@gmail.com.