Even though women make up about half of the American workforce, fewer women rise to positions of prominence than would be expected based on their numbers and early successes.

To encourage women to take greater leadership roles in Southeast Georgia, the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation (LBWF) in Statesboro has established a Women’s Leadership Academy in partnership with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

The opening retreat — held August 27-28 at the University of Georgia’s Athens campus — kicked off with welcome remarks by Lisa Lee, president of LBWF, and Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for public service and outreach, who told the women from Bulloch and surrounding counties that they would have a powerful network when they finished the year-long program.

Cicely Sikes, a participant from Candler County said she already had begun to bond with the other women in the program.

“Just in these first days, being part of a supportive group of women has helped me identify my gifts and voice, and begin to see where I am, what I need to do, and how I can mentor other women, ” said Sikes, a right-of-way agent for Georgia Power.

UGA President Jere Morehead talked to the group about the importance of women’s leadership and his own commitment to increasing the number of women leaders at the university.

“One of the things the provost and I have spent a lot of time talking about is how we can create a better pipeline of women leaders on this campus,” Morehead told the group. “A place like this ought to reflect more of the composition of the state and the student body.”

Fanning faculty members Martiza Soto Keen and Carolina Darbisi designed the program for the Statesboro-based foundation to focus on understanding leadership from women’s lens. The program will prepare the first class of 16 emerging leaders to maximize their potential both professionally and personally through servant leadership.

Eight interactive sessions will take place over the next year and will feature peer learning. In addition to addressing issues that women in leadership encounter, the include sessions will include an assessment of individual leadership styles, career development, work-life balance, and tools for effective leadership.

The participants work in a variety of professions including business, industry, education, agriculture, journalism, and higher education. All live and work in the Southeast Georgia region in communities such as Metter, Portal, Pulaski, Statesboro, and Sylvania.

Women’s leadership academy is personal leadership development program to improve career, mentoring, and service opportunities for women. Understanding leadership through a woman’s lens. Women identified have leadership potential, career aspirations, and a commitment to community and servant leadership.

Participants in the inaugural class are:

  • Amy Anderson, Georgia Power, Sylvania
  • Catherine Ball, Ogeechee Technical College, Statesboro
  • Raegan Daly, Statesboro Magazine, Statesboro
  • Jennifer Douglas, AgSouth, Statesboro
  • Niki Guarino, State Farm, Statesboro
  • Christina Larson; Dabbs, Hickman, Hill and Cannon; Statesboro
  • Jenna Lawson, Sea Island Bank, Statesboro
  • Christa Mallard, Mal-Ad Promotions, Statesboro
  • America Minc, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro
  • Hannah Mullins, Candler County Industrial Authority, Metter
  • Ava Percell, Georgia Southern University. Portal
  • Jaime Riggs, Metter-Candler County Chamber of Commerce, Metter
  • Sally Scott, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro
  • Cicely Sikes, Georgia Power, Pulaski
  • Kelly Spence, Bulloch County Board of Education, Statesboro
  • Ty White, Ogeechee Technical College, Statesboro

About Fanning

The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development is a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia. Dedicated to building a better Georgia, Fanning strengthens communities and organizations through leadership development, training and education. For more information, visit https://www.fanning.uga.edu/.


Writer: Kathleen Cason, 706-542-7039, kcason@uga.edu
Contact: Maritza Soto Keen, 706-542-1108, soto@fanning.uga.edu or Carolina Darbisi, 706-542-1108, cdarbisi@fanning.uga.edu