CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has hired a longtime professional development leader to help guide programs aimed at helping women advance in the workplace.

The Chamber has tapped Devona Stripling as the program manager of the Women Excel (WE) platform. She’ll oversee the various WE programs that provide networking, education, mentoring and leadership development for women in business.

Most participants in WE are "high achieving, goal-oriented women who are seeking advancement or have recently been promoted," per the Chamber.

Devona Stripling, Women Excel program manager for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
Devona Stripling, Women Excel program manager for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

“(Stripling's) previous experience and magnetic personality will truly help us take this platform to the next level,” said Amy Thompson, vice president of the Chamber's Leadership Center.

The Chamber said it hired Stripling because of her extensive program management experience. She has directed community efforts for programs at organizations like Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, Beech Acres, Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army.

Also highlighted was her work in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as her background in training for things like cultural competency.

She most recently served as a diversity and inclusion consultant for TriHealth.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to enter this new stage in my career for which I am able to utilize my skills in facilitation, training, and personal development to advance the Chamber’s mission to invest in the women leaders in our region," Stripling said.

Stripling inherits a job that was left void last year due to COVID-19. Danielle Wilson, communications director for the Chamber, said the organization is "thrilled to be able to hire someone as 'WE' rebuilds."

The Women Excel platform came about in 2006 as a response to a survey commissioned by The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The "Pulse" survey looked at the status of women and girls in greater Cincinnati.

Survey findings indicated that the region needed to create more opportunities for "the development and promotion of women in the workplace," according to the Chamber.

While there's been progress over the last 15 years, it's "critical to keep momentum," Wilson said.

In July, Politico reported that nearly 1.8 million women had dropped out of the labor force amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women of color continue face even greater challenges being promoted. In the private sector, Black workers make up 12% of the entry-level workforce but just 7% of the managerial workforce, according to a report from CNBC this May.

The Women Excel platform offers a range of programs to help address these challenges, Wilson said.

Some of the programs Stripling will oversee include WE Lead, a 10-month leadership development program that includes a retreat, workshops, group coaching.

In its 15-year history, more than 700 women have graduated from WE Lead. It's 16th class, which includes 54 members, was announced this week.

Jackie Thomas, with Procter and Gamble, called her time in the WE Lead program "transformational."

“The new skills I learned, my increased access and awareness of local resources, and the extension of my network will undoubtedly pay dividends throughout my career at P&G and my personal life,” she said.

Other existing programs include:

  • WE Succeed – Three-month small group focused on group coaching experience.

  • WE Ascend – Three-month small group leadership development program for women of color.

  • WE Speak – Speaker series that provides an opportunity to hear stories and lessons from local leaders.

Stripling will also be responsible for building upon the existing WE platform, which may include enhanced leadership development offerings.

“I am immensely passionate about supporting and encouraging phenomenal women in our region to accelerate to the next level and helping them to envision themselves beyond what they see,” she said.