Two logos indicating DWL is now powered by ONA. Text below the logos reads "Making mentorship more accessible in journalism"

ONA is the new home of Digital Women Leaders, expanding access to mentorship for current and aspiring journalism leaders

By on April 17, 2024

The Online News Association (ONA) is excited to announce an expansion of our commitment to cultivate transformational leadership with the acquisition of Digital Women Leaders (DWL), a mentorship resource for women and non-binary people aimed at addressing disparities in journalism leadership.

DWL, created in 2018 by writer and journalism consultant Katie Hawkins-Gaar, has facilitated thousands of one-on-one mentoring conversations through its online platform. With over 150 leaders volunteering their wisdom and expertise, people can easily find a mentor based on topic of expertise, languages spoken, organization or name. These mentors provide valuable advice ranging from ways to boost community engagement to big decisions like switching career paths.

“I feel really good about this move, and what it means for all of us working in journalism, an industry where mentorship and support is sorely needed,” said founder Katie Hawkins-Gaar. “There are many more people who could benefit from this resource, and I’m excited to see how Digital Women Leaders grows and thrives under ONA’s care.”

ONA Learning Director Kelsey Proud will collaborate with Katie over the next few months to make sure that the transition goes smoothly and that the original vision and values of Digital Women Leaders are intact. Kelsey currently stewards the Women’s Leadership Accelerator and leads programming for ONA’s annual conference. She is also an alum of the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media and volunteers as a mentor through DWL.

“It’s a huge honor for ONA to be entrusted to guide DWL’s next chapter,” shared LaSharah S. Bunting, ONA CEO and Executive Director, and one of DWL’s earliest champions in her previous role as a journalism funder. “ONA has a long history of developing changemakers in journalism. We’re especially known for equipping people who are typically underrepresented in the industry with the leadership skills and networks to advance into highly influential roles in their organizations and communities. By bringing DWL’s mentorship service into our work, we have a real opportunity to build on a great foundation and make sure this important resource has even more far-reaching impact.”

The Digital Women Leaders model has already inspired multiple other resources, including mentorship and coaching opportunities for Latinas in journalism, women in film and journalists looking for one-on-one support to build credibility with audiences. ONA is committed to the original vision for the website and will explore ways to improve and expand it, and eventually bring this model to more people across the industry.

DWL is the latest commitment in an evolving lineup of programs for current and aspiring media leaders. ONA is now selecting the 2024 cohort of the Women’s Leadership Accelerator, as well as leading a major initiative supporting newsroom leaders in shaping their strategies around AI and emerging technology. Later this year at the 2024 Online News Association Conference (ONA24), there will be leadership summits, deep-dive workshops, sessions and informal meetups specifically meant to develop and connect leaders across the industry.

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Karolle Rabarison

Karolle Rabarison is ONA's Director of Communications. She collaborates across the team to connect ONA members and the broader journalism community to emerging tech and leadership training, networking, industry trends, and career development resources.