The Women’s Leadership Institute was initiated in 1996 with informal gatherings regarding the small number of women in leadership positions in the Chattanooga community, especially the relatively few women holding executive level positions in copmanies or elective and appointive offices in local government. Additionally, a movement began to form an organization where women leaders could interact with each other more productively and could bring forward a new “generation” of women leaders. In 1998, WLI became a nonprofit organization.
Ten years later, in 2008, “Chattanooga” was added to the title. The Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute consisted of 150 members. Quarterly Leadership Luncheons were held. The first annual Women Mentoring Women series was held with the purpose of developing mentoring skills in emerging women leaders. In 2019, this flagship program received an upgrade. It is now called "Game ChangeHer". Between September and May annually, these women participate in 2 sessions per month; one to learn how to mentor and one to metnor young women in area schools in real time. This way, they can apply the skills they are learning while also serving in our community. This program has since graduated over 140 women.
In 2012 and again in 2015, CWLI leadership developed a strategic business plan to determine the future focus of the organization and the strategies to reach its goals. The organization grew in membership and then restructured the oraganizational and programmatic model in 2019 to respond to new challenges.
Today, CWLI has over 600 members, a Board of Directors, an Executive Director, a Director of Programs & Operations, a Marketing & Membership Coordinator, and several volunteer committees. Strong participation in leadership development series continue to increase the leadership capabilities and influence of women in the Chattanooga community. On any given day, we mobilize more than 50 women into our community to shape the narrative for existing and emerging leaders. These professional women serve our community above and beyond the many roles they play in life; wife, mother, sister, daughter, employee.
Women are unique and valuable contributors to society and whose opinions ultimately benefit the entire community, both socially and economically, but they continue to be under-represented in leadership roles. CWLI’s programs and activities are designed to help more women develop valuable leadership skills individually while also cultivating an ecosystem that is enthusiastic about including the unique talents of women in more leadership positions.
CWLI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our desire is to realize improved outcomes for women at all levels of society by offering premiere training and networking for pofessional women of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Together, we will map a more positive future for women.
Increase the leadership capabilities and influence of women.
Contribute to the growth and stability of the Greater Chattanooga business and civic community through the broad range of women’s talents and perspectives.
Kim Shumpert, Executive Director
Kim Shumpert joined the CWLI Team in May of 2018. Throughout her career, Kim has had the honor of working with numerous respected business leaders and philanthropists. She is passionate about improving the quality of life and creating pathways to opportunity for women and children. Many of her professional pursuits have been focused on equipping individuals to promote collective impact within their communities. She enjoys working with organizations of all sizes designing initiatives that will advance access to high-quality employment and citizenry.
Her professional accomplishments include writing numerous grants and strategic plans, board and donor cultivation, organizational restructuring, organizational capacity building and development, fundraising, and program creation, implementation and administration. Since moving back to her hometown of Chattanooga in 2016, she has wasted no time in getting involved. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, is a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, works on multiple local initiatives and frequently speaks at community gatherings to promote important issues.
She is driven by the philosophy that affecting change in a community is about building relationships that equip people to improve their lives and the lives of others through meaningful experiences. She and her husband, Brad, are raising their two daughters to use their talents to become influential young women in leadership.
Sharayah Caouette, Director of Programs & Operations
Sharayah Caouette joined CWLI in July of 2019 as Director of Programs and Operations. Sharayah has general oversight to all program implementation and evaluation of the organization under the Executive Director and Board of Directors in accordance with its mission.
Sharayah brings with her over 10 years experience in client relations and leadership. Prior to her role at CWLI, she devoted 4 1/2 years of service to a local medical aesthetic practice. As the Executive Director, she cultivated a team of passionate and professional women and led them through a corporate merger.
Sharayah is a Michigan native, relocating to Tennessee in 2000. She graduated from Southern Adventist University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations. She married her husband, Nate in 2011 and together they have 2 children, Hylan and Brielle.
Sharayah’s focus is to walk along side success-driven women in order to help each other develop valuable leadership skills. Using her talents and experience, she seeks to provide more opportunities for growth and networking for our local community of women in leadership roles.
Ashley Rutledge, Marketing & Membership Coordinator
Ashley Rutledge joined CWLI as an intern in January 2018 and was hired as the Communications Coordinator in May 2018.
Upon graduating from UT Chattanooga in December 2018, Ashley stepped into her current role as the Marketing and Membership Coordinator. She is responsible for managing the website, creating content for social media, developing and implementing the annual marketing timeline and managing current members of CWLI. Prior to joining the CWLI team, Ashley worked in the marketing departments of UTC Athletics and a local law firm.
Ashley graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a BA in Communication in December 2018. She spends her free time with her dog, Sadie, serves as a Young Life Leader at Signal Mountain High School and is an avid photographer.
2020 Board of Directors
Julie Baumgardner | Chair
First Things First
Tangela Johnson | Chair-elect
North Georgia Corporate Consulting
Janet Dunn | Immediate Past Chair
YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga
Julie Davis | Treasurer, Operations Liaison
Roundtable Advisors of Raymond James
Christine Ryder | Secretary
BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee
Autumn Witt Boyd | Programs Liaison
Law Office of Autumn Witt Boyd
Emily Ramsey | Capacity Liaison
J. Smith Lanier, a Marsh & McLennan Agency
Board of Directors
Woodall Agency Insurance
The Double Cola Company
Chambliss Children's Center
Marj Flemming | Director Emeritus
Beth Harrell Homes, Crye-Leike Realtors
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.
JP Morgan Chase
Parkridge Health Systems
Memorial Healthcare System
Calderin & Oliva, P.A.
Chattanooga Police Department
Joyce Ann Williams