Monday, November 26, 2018

Q&A with Members of JLW’s Board of Directors

Now that they've had a few months to settle into their roles, we wanted to spend five minutes talking to some of our current Board about their experiences! 

Jessica Taylor White, Ways & Means Council Director

Jess is in her second consecutive year of service on the JLW Board of Directors; last year, she served as New Membership Council Director. She has also served on the Friends of the Junior League, Member Recruitment, New Members, and Transfers Committees, and is currently completing a secondary placement with A Wider Circle.

1. What inspired you to serve on the Board?
While serving as a leader on the New Membership Council, I worked with three council directors that I really admired – Amanda Walke, Stacey Tuneski, and Meredith Scialabba. All three encouraged the women they worked with to stretch themselves and try new things, and they made the idea of board service very approachable.

2. How is your Board service benefitting you and the League?
I hope that in my Board service, I am helping women in our League develop their potential as leaders in the same way that other Board members have helped me. I have learned a great deal from the other women I've served with on the Board and on my council. I hope to one day serve on other nonprofit boards,and the JLW Board is a great training ground for volunteer leadership.

3. What is an average JLW week for you like?
The time commitment for me is around 6-8 hours per week. I know that sounds like a lot, but much of it is flexible. An average JLW week for me includes: a meeting at Headquarters (a council meeting, a Board meeting, or a committee meeting); approximately 30 minutes of emails daily; approximately two hours of calls weekly (I spend a lot of time in the car, so I love to multitask and get my calls in during my driving time); and about 2 hours of fun! I always like to meet up with JLW friends before or after meetings. Some of the friendships I've made in the League are part of why I'm still here after nearly 10 years. 

4. What would you say to a JLW member who wanted to self-nominate?
Step up and tell the leaders around you that you are interested. Volunteer to do more on your committee. Meet other leaders at JLW events to learn more about the areas you are interested in. Attend Board meetings.

I don't think there is any ideal profile of a good Board member. The diversity of experiences and backgrounds around the table are part of what makes our organization so strong. Commonalities we all share are our values and commitment to the service and to our mission. With everyone bringing that to the table, the work is bound to be impactful.

Mandy Asgeirsson, New Member Council Director

Mandy has been a member of JLW since 2011. Currently in her first year on the Board of Directors as New Membership Council Director, Mandy was most recently an Assistant Council Director for the New Membership Council. Her other placements include Esprit, Magazine, and Member Recruitment.

1. What inspired you to serve on the Board?

For me, I decided to apply for the Board because I really wanted to continue in my path in leadership, and I felt that I had gained enough institutional knowledge and experience after serving as chair and assistant council director. I was really interested in understanding how our organization is run, and how decisions are made.

2. How is your Board service benefitting you and the League?

I think that Board service is really expanding my view of the League, and taking me out of my comfort zone. It becomes easy to focus on the day to day of the New Membership Council, which I'm comfortable with from experience, but Board service requires me to take a step back and look at the League holistically.

3. What is an average JLW week for you like?

It really varies week to week. Most weeks, I have at least one meeting at Headquarters, plus I have emails to respond to most days. Then, I have a couple additional meetings, socials, or commitments each month. 

4. What would you say to a JLW member who wanted to self-nominate?

I would highly recommend members to self-nominate! It helps the Nominating Committee understand your interest in leadership, and it opens you up to new opportunities. It might not happen right away, but it's the only way the committee will know you're interested!

Colli McKiernan, Cultural Community Placement Council Director

Colli has been a member of JLW since 2013. Before joining the Board this year, she spent four years volunteering with the National Museum of Women in the Arts Committee, including one year as chair. She has also completed a secondary placement with the New Members Committee.

1. What inspired you to serve on the Board?

I was encouraged to serve on the Board by the previous cultural Community Placement Council (CPC) Director, who thought my skill set and background would provide a valuable perspective to the Board of Directors. Personally, I wanted to serve on the Board so that I could help message the great work performed daily by the more than 175 women supporting a cultural community placement this year.

2. How is your Board service benefitting you and the League?

One of my primary goals for this League year is to develop the potential of leaders serving on a community placement. As a CPC Director, I work with many talented individuals who serve in a variety of leadership roles; I think it’s critical to provide a space for these women to grow through meaningful successes and safe failures.

I’ve learned so much about the League and its leadership hierarchy, work performed on other councils, and nonprofit governance, in general. It’s interesting to see how the experience of women serving on in-League placements is markedly different than that of our community volunteers. I feel appreciative of the opportunity I’ve been given, as a Board member, to have so much cross-League exposure to the objectives of, and women on, other Councils.

3. What is an average JLW week for you like?

Every day is different. I spend a few hours every day responding to questions and requests via e-mail (in support of women on my Council and across the League); I also participate in several Junior League phone calls and meetings each week. Overall, I probably spend 10 to 15 hours a week on Junior League activities.

4. What would you say to a JLW member who wanted to self-nominate?

I would encourage all women interested in Board service to submit a self-nomination! The Nominating Committee contains a breadth of leaders who have served across different councils and committees, but they don’t know all 2,300 members of the League. If you have an interest in serving on the Board, I would recommend speaking with your current council or committee leadership to talk through the responsibilities of their position and find ways your skill set could enhance a future Board; we’re also looking for rising stars, so expressing your interest in a future leadership role (at the Board, assistant council director, chair, or vice chair level) is always welcome.

Though the Board only contains 16 women, its members must consider the current and future needs of the League, as a whole, when making any decision or recommendation. And, since there are a lot of parts of the League and procedures we follow with which a Board member may not be familiar, it’s important to ask for help if you don’t know the answer to a question or the date by which a task must be completed.

Friday, October 19, 2018

How the League Leads in Finding its Leaders

With more than 100 leadership opportunities within the Junior League of Washington (JLW), we are lucky to have so many capable women willing to step up and lead. Did you know  our diverse membership totals more than 2,300 women from all professions, education levels, and backgrounds?

The task of slating each and every leader falls to the League’s Nominating Committee, a group of 11 women who are elected by the League’s eligible voters the prior spring. Each of these women has served as a League leader,  at least one who is a Sustainer (a woman who has provided more than seven years of active service to the League), and at least one who is a past Board member. The Nominating Committee is led by a chair, who also serves on the Board and whose primary role is to facilitate discussion; she does not have a vote.

How do these 12 women come together to narrow down the field and ensure that the best JLW member is placed in each leadership role?

We Ask For Feedback

Early in the League year, the Nominating Committee invites current Board members to its meetings for informal interviews that cover how the year is going and who should succeed them, as well as success stories and warning signs. Beginning with the President and President-Elect, the Nominating Committee uses this opportunity to discern a strategic direction for the League’s leadership for the next year. There is an overall strategy in mind that adheres to our Strategic Plan.

Throughout the year, we ask our current leaders to provide feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. We use this information to identify rising stars and assess any weaknesses or holes that need to be filled.

We Solicit Nominations

After we’ve laid this critical groundwork, we formally ask for nominations for leadership roles. These nominations are open to any member of the League, whether she wishes to nominate herself or another deserving member.

Our Nominating process operates in two phases. In October, we open nominations for the next year’s Board of Directors and Nominating Committee. In January, we open nominations for assistant council directors, chairs, and rising chairs.

The Nominating Committee strongly appreciates self-nominations, and we encourage all interested women to apply.

In all cases, and if nominations are required outside of the typical schedule, the Nominating Committee publicizes such openings through several avenues: the members-only homepage; our weekly newsletter; and our JLW Member Exchange Facebook group.

We Open the Door to Those Willing to Serve

The League’s nominating process is often described as a puzzle – we try to find where each woman fits best. Sometimes, a member might not know where she’s most needed or she might be willing and able to take on any challenge.

That’s where the Willing to Serve form comes in. This form allows any member to say “I am willing to step up and serve as a leader in whatever capacity the Nominating Committee needs me.” This form is available to members throughout the year.

Make Ourselves Available

JLW members who have any questions should feel free to contact their committee’s Nominating Committee liaison. Your Nominating Committee liaison can also serve as a mentor to you as you begin or continue your JLW leadership journey. Don’t know who that is? Have a general question? Email

The Ins and Outs of Identifying Leaders

Think you need to wear pearls and bright prints to be a leader in JLW? Think you need to have a certain number of years of leadership? Think again! Our leaders reflect the diversity of the League.

What Qualities Does the Nominating Committee Look for in a Leader?
This is a tough question because there is no one path to leadership. Each leader has a unique experience that brought her to where she is today.

And each year, the needs of the League, and our committees, change, and the committee responds to these changes and circumstances. There is no set guidemap – the Board won’t have a certain makeup of new and returning members, for instance.

We can say this:
  1. You do not have to have served in leadership before for most roles (there are a few exceptions, notably President-Elect and members of the Nominating Committee).
  2. You do not necessarily need to have previously served on the committee you will lead.
  3. You do not have to look or dress a certain way.
  4. You do not have to be friends with certain people or the most people. It is not a popularity contest; the member with the most nominations does not automatically get selected.
  5. You do have to demonstrate traits and characteristics that will be an asset to the leadership role. We outline these core competencies for each role, which members can access here.
  6. You do have to step up and say yes!
The application process helps us identify the relevant qualities each applicant has: her leaderships style, her skills; her experience, both in the League and out; and more. This helps us determine who is the best fit for each role.

As with the entire JLW, the Nominating Committee is committed to diverse and inclusive leadership, which we believe puts our best face forward and helps us connect with the communities we serve. We want our leadership to be reflective of our many members, each from different backgrounds, with different personalities, interests, and leadership styles.

What Qualities Does the Nominating Committee Shy Away From?
Again, there is no one right or wrong personality for leadership. The Nominating Committee does assess feedback, both positive and negative, but strives to see all angles of a potential leader to determine if she is a good fit for a leadership role at that time.

Why Can’t the Committee Be More Transparent?
The Nominating Committee maintains discretion for many reasons, but the main reason is to maintain a supportive environment for our members. All applications are strictly confidential and reviewed only by members of the current Nominating Committee, and all ensuing discussions are confidential as well.

That said, the Nominating Committee is working to make our process more transparent:
  1. We are working to retain records of nominations year over year. This includes formally asking women if they’d be willing to be considered for the same positions in the future.
  2. We are working to communicate better with our members from the beginning to the end of the process. This includes better education on how we work (for instance, blog posts like this one).
  3. We are working to educate members on what it means to be a leader in the League – the skills needed, the experience gained, and the time commitment required, for instance.
  4. We are working to be an open door for nominations throughout the year, not only during the months of October and January.
I’m a New Member. Can I Be a Leader?
There are lots of opportunities for New Members to grow in the ranks of JLW leadership. That said, more years of League experience allows you to understand the League better, and allows the Nominating Committee to better understand who you are as a leader. Some great first steps are jumping in as a vice chair on your first placement, or even reaching out to the chair of your mini-placement to see if there are any opportunities.

You may find it helpful to find a current or former League leader to mentor you on your leadership path. Network with League members at events, ask your committee chairs and vice chairs for support or to connect you with another leader, or even reach out in the JLW Member Exchange Facebook Group. If you don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out to the Nominating Committee.

For this or any other questions, email the Nominating Committee at We are an open door, and we are here to serve you and the League.