IWMF Spotlight: Professional Development

Supporting the careers of women and nonbinary journalists worldwide

Fund for Women Journalists grantee Cherri Gregg conducts an interview.

The IWMF breaks barriers for women and nonbinary journalists — part of that mission is ensuring they have the resources to succeed. Attending a journalism conference can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, and not all newsrooms have professional development funds that allow you to take skills-based courses to elevate your work.

That’s why we offer professional development funding through the Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists for opportunities such as courses, workshops and attending conferences. The Fund for Women Journalists accepts applications year-round on a rolling deadline.

We’ve also supported the professional development of journalists through our Lauren Brown Fellowship — intended for Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program alums — and our Reclaiming Futures Fellowship for Afghan women journalists in exile.

Many of our community members have gone on to change careers and obtain new reporting opportunities after the professional development grants they received.

Read their stories below.

Featured Community Members

Karleen Leveille

Karleen Leveille, an Emmy Award-winning producer and news anchor, attended the joint convention for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) in July 2022 with the help of the Fund for Women Journalists. While there, she met industry peers, developed new sources and took a hands-on Augmented Reality course, learning how to use her station’s social media accounts to immerse viewers into the environments where she films stories.

“Getting the grant was transformative. It reaffirmed my purpose and removed the financial limitation that could have hindered my ability to grow. More importantly, it made me a member of a group of women who share the vision to tell stories. Attending the conference was an unbelievable experience because it amplified my visibility, networking, and goals. What would have taken me several months or years to accomplish, was accelerated because I could access people and resources all in one place. That would have never happened without the grant.”  —Karleen Leveille

Samantha Stephens

Samantha Stephens, an Ottawa-based photographer focused on science and conservation, used her Fund for Women Journalists grant to obtain the highest level of licensing available to fly a drone in Canada for video and photography purposes. This involved taking an RPAS (Drone) pilot Ground School course, passing a written exam to obtain her RPAS Pilot Certificate—Basic Operations, completing in-person flight training school and passing a flight review.

“This professional development opportunity gave me more confidence in my ability to learn and master complex technical skills related to capturing photos and video.” —Samantha Stephens

Cherri Gregg

Broadcast reporter Cherri Gregg used her Fund for Women Journalists grant to attend the Transom Storytelling Mentorship Program. The resulting project is “Born with Purpose,” an audio story that details the aftermath of the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, using personal interview footage and archival records stretching 40 years back. She also used her experience to transition into public media and now works as an anchor for WHYY, the Philadelphia NPR member station.

“At the time, I had been working in commercial radio for nearly a decade. While I had found success working as a reporter in radio and tv news, I wanted to increase my knowledge of narrative audio storytelling and shift my journalism focus. The six-week intensive virtual course paid for by IWMF taught me so much and helped me build my confidence in my production skills. The instructors encouraged me to pursue hosting and anchoring in the public media space.

Soon after, a position opened up at WHYY, the Philadelphia NPR member station, and guess where I ended up? I am now a host/anchor at WHYY!  I’ve since used the new skills I picked up from the Transom storytelling program to help launch The Good Souls Project—a series I executive-produce with full support of WHYY. I am also now the co-host of a brand new radio program called Studio 2, a news show that airs three days a week. The IWMF funds were part of the momentum that helped me transition into public media—and I will forever be grateful.” 
—Cherri Gregg

Joanna Suarez

As a 2022 Lauren Brown FellowJoanna Suarez attended a six-month-long course, Spanish Sin Pena, to elevate her Spanish skills on advanced topics like politics and finance. After moving to the DC area from Miami, she found herself not speaking Spanish regularly and wanted to reconnect with her roots, alongside other Latino professionals.

The course quickly became useful. During her first field-producing trip for CNN during the 2022 midterm elections, she was able to engage with Latino voters in Kansas City about the role that abortion would play when casting their ballot — and she credits the course for helping her confidently carry a long conversation about the issue.

“I am so grateful that you provided me with the funds to go through this program. I have never undergone any professional development that isn’t specifically related to journalism. It was such a privilege to be able to step back, look at myself as a woman who happens to be a journalist, and evaluate what I need to become a better communicator and storyteller.” —Joanna Suarez

Meg Bernhard

Freelance reporter Meg Bernhard attended the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont, in June 2022, with the support of the Fund for Women Journalists. Meg wanted to attend so that she could better report on the environment in her new home of Nevada. While at the conference, she received feedback on an early draft of her High Country News story, “An expedition through Kim Stringfellow’s Mojave,” which profiles a landscape photographer’s approach to documenting the desert.

“I had a great time at Bread Loaf and since then, I’ve done a lot of environmental writing in Nevada. This year I’m the writer in residence for the Desert Companion [Nevada Public Radio’s magazine] and am focusing on environmental issues in the Mojave. Bread Loaf helped connect me with other environmental writers in the Southwest, and I learned so much about how to ethically write about the natural world and climate change. (Also I am now in love with Vermont, where Bread Loaf took place, and I’m hoping to report there in the future.)” —Meg Bernhard