Skip to content
Three columns with ornate carvings at the top

Explore strategies to leverage your strengths to advance your career and steer your organization.

Despite the continued attention given to gender diversity in the legal profession, firms and in-house legal departments are struggling to make strides. Case in point: A 2020 ABA report states 22% of equity partners in law firms are women and a 2022 report from leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates says that 36% of Fortune 500 GCs are women. Once women attain leadership positions, they often continue to face distinct challenges. The Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) addresses these challenges.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) will empower you to fulfill your leadership potential so you can attain and flourish in leadership roles. With faculty including distinguished women practitioners and scholars, this engaging program will challenge you to develop strategies for navigating your career more strategically through personal influence, self-advocacy, and more effective team leadership.

WLI will also help you fortify your network by providing the opportunity to develop relationships with fellow women leaders. Through a variety of different learning methods including case study discussion, group exercises, and simuations, you will have many opportunities to interact with fellow participants and share ideas, challenges, and perspectives. The opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of women leaders in a supportive and energizing environment is often sited as the most powerful aspect of the program by WLI alumni.

This immersive four-day program is designed for both women in leadership positions in in-house legal departments and firm-based women partners. You will gain valuable insight into your leadership style and skills—and how you can best leverage your strengths to advance your career and steer your organization. Amplify your ability to bring about meaningful change by participating in the program with a colleague.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative at Harvard Law School Executive Education was invaluable in helping me recognize the importance of focusing more on the strategic and leadership aspects of my role as a General Counsel and a member of the executive leadership team. At the same time, the program  provided me with tools to help me better define my desired career trajectory and execute on the tactics leading to reaching my goals. Overall, I believe I benefitted greatly as an individual and as a leader who is now able to provide greater value to the teams and organizations I have the fortune of leading.

Aneta Ferguson
Vice President, General Counsel
Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc.


About the Women’s Leadership Initiative


    HLS Executive Education’s Women’s Leadership Initiative is an intensive program designed to accelerate the leadership potential, experience, and visibility of promising women partners and women in leadership positions within in-house legal departments.

    The Women’s Leadership Initiative aims to prepare you to:

    • Identify and apply personal leadership strategies to address unique leadership challenges and to better balance your responsibilities within your organization.
    • Amplify your proven leadership to have greater impact and broader influence within your team and organization.
    • Develop a network of distinguished peers and acquire tools to enhance the value and power of your network.
    • Improve self-advocacy skills including the ability to identify and articulate your professional needs, strengths, and goals.
    • Gain an understand of negotiation and influence techniques for career management and addressing job challenges.
    • Think strategically about your contribution to your organization’s growth and your impact on your organization.

    The Learning Model

    Case studies, lectures, hands-on exercises, and small group discussions, focused specifically on challenges related to career strategies for women leaders, afford participants the opportunity to discuss the determinants of sustained success and effective leadership. This learning format allows participants to learn the concepts, practice them in a supportive environment, and apply them to their own work context and challenges.

    The program’s distinguished faculty focus on providing applicable frameworks and tools necessary to cultivate personal leadership styles and effectively manage and influence teams as a leader within the organization. The curriculum will also include:

    • Sessions on identifying and leveraging your personal brand
    • Opportunities to develop a peer network of women leaders
    • Sessions on self-advocacy and the power of influence
    • Case discussions and exercises to learn and practice influence and negotiation tactics.
    • Opportunities to practice leadership skills in a supportive program

    The Women’s Leadership Initiative is designed for equity partners and lawyers in leadership positions in in-house legal departments. The program is also open to leaders in all professional services firms including accounting, consulting, engineering, and design. The seniority level of participants will vary by organization, but it is recommended that applicants manage or oversee other lawyers in their current role.

    We recommend participants consider attending the program as part of a pair or small team from their firm or organization. Attending with another provides accountability and opportunity for greater impact when participants return to their organization.

    While the program is focused on women (and those who identify as women) executives, the program is open to all executives who meet the admissions criteria.


    Visit the Admissions page for information on the process.


    Our core faculty are members of Harvard faculty – distinguished academicians, educators, researchers, authors, and practitioners in their respective fields. Representing various disciplines, they are close to practice through relationships with law firm leaders and General Counsel and through personal involvement as consultants for top firms around the world.

    Teaching Team

    Hillary Sale, Georgetown Law – Program Chair

    Farayi Chipungu, Harvard Kennedy School – Faculty Co-Chair

    Michele DeStefano, University of Miami School of Law

    Kathleen McGinn, Harvard Business School