Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Kim Shumpert, the executive director of the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute.

As the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute turns 25 years old in 2021, the nonprofit group is preparing to launch a new headquarters and coworking space on the third floor of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce space on Broad Street.

"We want to incubate powerful women," says Executive Director Kim Shumpert, who expects a soft launch of the CWLI Legacy Center in the spring and a grand opening in June. "It can be used for business development, a lounge space, media production, podcasts, videos, webinars."

Like most things CWLI had planned for 2020, this project has been delayed by the pandemic, Shumpert says. But the new space is just one sign of change for the organization in 2021.

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The group's annual Impact dinner, normally in February, will become part of a two-day event in September. And CWLI is pushing to redefine itself to focus on the 'institute' element of its name, Shumpert adds.

"We have been a networking group, but we're trying to mold those programs to become an institute that is a hub for pulling in data relevant to our area, figuring out what that means to the talent pool, connecting women to jobs that will improve their economic mobility," she says.

Throughout 2020, CWLI has reinvented its programs and events to adjust to the pandemic, Shumpert says. The Impact dinner in February 2020 was freshly in the books when the pandemic hit in March, so the group was in a good spot to pause and pivot. In fact, the pause allowed CWLI to accelerate their progress on their 5-year strategic plan, Shumpert says.

Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute

* Online:

* Annual membership costs: Student: $25 / Regular: $150 / Sustaining: $300 / Legacy: $1,000

* Leadership: Tangela Johnson leads the board of directors, and Kim Shumpert is the organization’s executive director. CWLI has more than 600 members.

* Mission: To increase the leadership capabilities and influence of women. Our vision is to realize improved outcomes for women by seeing more women in decision-making spaces at all levels of society. We offer premiere training and networking for women of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Together, we will map a more positive future for women.


"We are now accomplishing things we didn't think we'd get to until year five," she says.

Moving in-person resources to virtual platforms and rebuilding their website have allowed CWLI to expand their reach, she says.

"We gave ourselves some grace about learning how to do that." she says. "We took a look at our whole model and said the biggest value we bring to people is community — how do we create that in a virtual environment?"