The Women’s Executive Leadership Initiative (WELead) is a program of the Women's Leadership Fund. At the core of WELead are small groups, or cohorts, that serve as a peer advisory board for female executives and leaders.

Through small group meetings, events and networking opportunities, WELead breaks down community silos and facilitates the learning and development of these leaders.

A WELead cohort is made up of 8-12 women leaders who seek a group of peers who will support and advise on their personal and professional goals. Through monthly meetings, deep discussions and a supportive environment, WELead cohorts forge stronger and deeper connections among local women leaders and further develop their skills and strengths.

The 2020 WELead Cohort is in progress. If you are interested in a future cohort, please download an application here.


What Does WELead Do?

The goals of WELead cohorts include:
  • Create a space for executive women to further develop their skills and connections to better lead their organizations and contribute to the vitality of the region.
  • Facilitate deeper connections of women leaders throughout the region to foster increased collaboration, business ideas, community initiatives, etc.
  • Facilitate the peer mentorship of women across industries and backgrounds, regardless of age, religion or race.
  • Enable coaching opportunities for improved personal and professional outcomes.
  • Build the confidence of individuals to seek out other women to mentor and exponentially grow women leaders across all types of organizations and in all stages of their careers.

Who can Join a Cohort?

Women in leadership roles in a for-profit company, non-profit organization or government entity. We define "leadership role" broadly as someone who has significant responsibility within her organization.

WELead cohorts are also open to small business owners and one-woman consultants and entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, applicants are best suited to determine if they will benefit from and add value to a cohort of women leaders.


Where do WELead Cohorts Meet?

The meeting location depends on the schedule and needs of cohort members.


Networking Groups Already Exist in Central Minnesota. Why Create WELead?

The lack of women-specific resources in our region is a key miss. By design or by default, men in leadership roles have long benefited from gender-specific or male-majority groups.

The growing ranks of women leaders in Central Minnesota’s rural communities are missing essential opportunities to strengthen their leadership skills and make deeper connections with supportive peers. This problem slows the development of women’s personal and professional growth, as well as hinders the growth of her organization and the economy of the entire community.

More than a networking group, WELead cohorts enable sparks of ideas and drive stronger leadership skills among area women. With this support, leaders can form better approaches or solutions to organizational challenges; as well as improve the economic vitality of our entire region.


What Happens in a Cohort?

The specific agendas of each cohort depends on the personal and professional needs and wants of the group as determined by the facilitator with support from the advisory board. There is not a rigid curriculum.

Each cohort meets these baseline expectations:

  • Provide a supportive and respectful environment in which to share personal and professional challenges.
  • Absolute confidentiality. Each member will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and breaking that agreement will result in immediate dismissal from the cohort.
  • Hold each member accountable for her plans and goals. Cohorts are about action, not just talk. Members and the facilitator will have a genuine interest in helping you get to the next step.
  • Members will feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Sometimes we say our problem is “X” when it’s really “Y,” but we have a hard time admitting or seeing that. Expect your cohort members and the facilitator to ask probing but respectful questions. Expect to be challenged in your beliefs and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable at times.
  • To evolve and grow. That looks different for everyone (and the pace is different), but the women who join these cohorts are looking to learn from each other and help each other figure out solutions to challenges or take on new endeavors.

Who Leads the Cohorts?

Pam Finch comes with 30 years of business experience, most recently as a CFO of a financial institution and then as a consultant guiding boards and senior management in business model strategy, team effectiveness and leadership development. Pam is also founder and CEO of Red Ribbon Consulting, which works with organizations and individuals to bring out their natural best, leading to meaningful progress towards an inspired future.

With WELead cohorts, Pam helps clarify participants' journeys with deep thinking, sensitivity, and accountability. She is more than a consultant or coach; she is your champion! Pam feels honored to be the facilitator for the WELead cohorts guiding women through meaningful growth opportunities that will impact themselves and the world around them.

Pam’s most rewarding life experience is being a mom to her two college-aged children. She is a graduate of Bemidji State University, a certified public accountant, and a long-time resident of the beautiful Brainerd Lakes Area.


How do I Know if a Cohort is Right for Me?

Too many of us expect perfection from ourselves. Stop it! The following is a guide for thinking about whether a cohort would be right for you. That’s ok if you don’t identify with every point. If you’re interested, talk to us!

  • You hold a leadership position in your for-profit, non-profit, or government organization. Or you are an entrepreneur/business owner/consultant.
  • You have a desire to work smarter, build relationships and improve yourself (whether that’s inside or outside of work).
  • You’re willing to be real, vulnerable and uncomfortable at times.
  • You have a genuine curiosity about others and a willingness to help your female peers grow. You realize that even though you may not have the spotlight at every meeting, learning will take place at every meeting.
  • You have a mentality of abundance, not scarcity. These cohorts are not about competing or comparing. They are an environment of teamwork and growth.
  • You are willing to be held accountable for your goals in a supportive way that helps you achieve your plans.
  • You can maintain absolute confidentiality. This includes keeping group discussions confidential from colleagues, friends, spouses and partners.

What’s the Time and Cost Commitment?

Cohorts meet monthly for three hours at a time. The specific date and time will be set in advance by the group and the facilitator. The location will also be set based on the needs of the group.

Cost of the 12-month cohort membership is $1,600 to be invoiced in four equal payments. A discount of $100 will be given for one-time payments made in full.

In the case of demonstrated financial hardship, a limited number of partial scholarships are available.


What’s the Application Process?

The 2020 Cohort is currently in session. If you are interested in a future cohort, download the application here.

After you submit an application, a WLF advisory board member will contact you for a casual, one-on-one meeting to learn more about your goals and hopes for the cohort.

We strive for diversity in each cohort. In addition to age, ethnicity, religion and background, diversity also means in industries. For example, if four accountants apply for a cohort membership, the last three women to apply may be put on a waiting list. Cohorts are about personal and professional development, which means being open and honest about your business direction and goals. If you have a potential competitor in the room, you will likely not feel like you can be completely open honest.

To a reasonable extent, we also want to avoid family or relationship conflicts in cohorts, and so the advisory board recommends that close relatives, close friends or co-workers not join the same cohort.

If you have any questions, please contact us at welead@ifound.org.