Athena Cohort Leadership Program
Athena supports women in developing their leadership skills and building a strong community. Originally developed at Google in partnership with Rachel Smith, Athena uses skill-building, discussion, reflection, and coaching to increase women’s confidence, resilience, and belonging at work.
At work, women walk a tightrope: they are expected to display feminine traits (e.g., nurturing, modest, selfless) while complying with workplace norms defined by men (e.g., assertiveness, self-promotion, risk taking). Decades of research have found that women are scrutinized and treated differently than men. As a result, women may struggle internally with imposter syndrome, overthinking and decreased belonging. Externally, they can display underdeveloped muscles for risk taking and self-advocacy. These challenges can be especially pronounced for women of color.
Athena’s premise is that understanding the ways gender, culture and other aspects of identity shape women’s experience at work is critical to their advancement. While most women’s leadership programs adopt a “fix the woman” stance – women should modify their behavior to fit the workplace – Athena takes a wider lens to the challenges women face: a “fix the culture” perspective.
Athena cohorts provide a psychologically safe space where women can connect deeply, creating a foundation for powerful reflection and learning. The program’s curriculum is grounded in research in positive psychology, organizational development and mindfulness, and is developed in partnership with the client based on the group’s needs.
Athena can be customed for each client. Length can vary from three to six sessions, from 90 minutes to two or more hours in length. A cohort of no more than 10 is ideal. Past program modules have focused on:
- Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
- Failing Well: tools to increase failure resilience
- The Art and Science of Risk Taking
- Sharing Your Strengths
- The Promise of Self-Compassion
“I loved how collaborative this program was and the connections I made with other women. Hearing so many of my internal conflicts and problems echoed by other people in the program was very useful and I felt very seen and validated. I am so thankful for the wonderful network that I have formed through the Athena program. Being a part of this program makes me feel so much more confident about resolving issues I face at work and supported in my career.”
“I found Athena healing and empowering. It was an awakening moment….After the session I began working on networking and self-promotion. I have been thinking about who I want to build relationships with.”
“When I left Athena I felt more motivated to go beyond my existing work and ask for bigger roles and responsibilities.”
“After a lot of hard work I finally got my first promotion at Google! I was reflecting on what it took to get here, and I don’t think I would have achieved this goal without the Athena and Athena+ sessions. Around this time last year, I was seriously reconsidering whether I was even cut out for the tech industry, but the Athena program was so impactful for me to find support, inspiration, build confidence, and learn a lot more about myself.”