KPMG’s Executive Leadership Institute for Women (ELIW) was established in 2009 to provide a unique leadership training program for the firm’s future women leaders. Created by KPMG’s Network of Women (KNOW) and launched in its Philadelphia office with the goal to further develop senior women, as well as women from outside KPMG, ELIW provides them the opportunity to expand their skills and initiate career-enriching relationships with executive women representing corporations in their local market.

With a curriculum developed in conjunction with The Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design, ELIW provides practical instruction in leadership development for women who have already achieved a high level of success, and consists of four focused, high-impact, half-day sessions conducted over the course of a year. These highly interactive sessions are limited to 35 women each, and are reinforced with monthly cohort group meetings in which trained facilitators provide instruction and insight.

Because the sessions occur over the course of a year, KPMG’s women and their colleagues who attend have time to absorb what they’ve learned in Building an Authentic Leadership Platform, Ensuring a High-Performing Career, Resiliency, and Political Savvy and Effective Influence. Each woman is then able to analyze her own strengths and opportunities for development, devise a plan, and implement strategies for improvement, while continually benefiting from the feedback of others.

“I have been with the organization 35 years. Yet, when I attended the program its first year, I was truly surprised by how much I gained,” says Patti Cary, partner in the firm’s Risk Management Advisory practice, and program manager for the ELIW. “The topics are beneficial to women at all points in their career, and the tools and confidence you walk away with are vital to every woman’s success.”

But what makes ELIW unique, stresses Cary, is the program’s relationship-building aspect. The immediate benefit for KPMG’s women, and the other women executives who participate, is derived from the insights, experiences, and “lessons learned” they share during the sessions and through cohorts. Over the longer term, the strong bonds formed have often evolved into mentoring relationships, as well as friendships, and created door-opening business connections that are both professionally and personally rewarding.

ELIW is now conducted in six cities—Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—and to date more than 20 ELIW sessions have been held, training nearly 800 women. The program has been so well received that regular social events for ELIW alumni also occur, helping KPMG’s women to leverage the valuable contacts they’ve made during their ELIW sessions. The program has been recognized by Working Mother magazine several times as one of the reasons KPMG has been ranked among its 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.

“It has been so impactful that we plan to roll out the ELIW to four other cities in 2015,” says Cary. “And we have plans for additional one-day programs that can bring these topics of discussion to all levels of women in the organization.