Providing the space: How Jo Saxton is investing in the next generation of leaders

As the new executive director of The 25, Jo Saxton brings a wealth of leadership experience from Christian, corporate, and nonprofit areas. She aims to guide and develop confident, young leaders who can make a positive change in their careers beyond Bethel.

By Macey Heath, social media content specialist

June 10, 2024 | 9:17 a.m.


Jo Saxton, executive director of The 25

Stepping into The 25, Saxton is eager to guide the next generation of young leaders. Particularly, young students who recognize their calling to leadership and are ready to become equipped for their ventures after Bethel. "In those younger years, it's such a time of vibrant potential. Knowing and living through that exciting time from my own college years has informed what I'm doing now, which is recognizing that this is a time of incredible potential and purpose for young adults," she says.  

As an accomplished author, public speaker, podcast host, leadership coach, and nowserving as the executive director of The 25 program at BethelSaxton’s passion for mentoring others toward success is undeniably one of great calling. She’s formed a deep commitment for investing in and developing strong leaders, specifically, creating spaces for women in leadership. “Throughout my career, I've always been involved in various forms of ministry. I worked with churches and leaders, and during that whole time, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of how we invest in leaders, because how the leader is, is how everything else goes in the end,” she says.

Saxton grew up in England, was born and raised in London, and has been living in the United States for 20 years. In college, Saxton started on an English and journalism path but soon switched to a faith focus, majoring in biblical studies with concentrations in Greek and Hebrew. “I knew that God was calling me to something, but I didn't know what to. All I knew was that He was first,” she says. In her early career, she started church planting as a college pastor. By sharing the love of Jesus in different environments, she saw people come to faith, come back to faith, and witness the power of God at work. By the time she reached her mid-twenties, she felt more confident in her calling and felt a strong urge to take the next steps in her vocation.

"I would find myself wondering where the women were. Particularly in the Christian environments, wondering why I was the only woman speaking."

— Jo Saxton, executive director of The 25

As Saxton started speaking at a variety of engagements in both the Christian and corporate areas, she often found herself questioning the absence of women in those spaces. "I would find myself wondering where the women were. Particularly in the Christian environments, wondering why I was the only woman speaking,” she says. Recognizing the potential in that space, Saxton felt compelled to provide opportunities where women leaders, or women who were embarking on their leadership and career journeys, could gather and engage in meaningful conversations.  

Of these opportunities, Saxton has led multiple initiatives that guide and coach women from all stages and walks of life, who aim to see their potential in leadership come to fruition. She created Ezer Collective, a two-day catalyst event and gathering of leaders from all around the country for networking, panels, training, and prayer.

Saxton saw the significance of events like Ezer and how that space is so important—just to have a space filled with like-minded women from across industries and ministry spaces who can network, share similar experiences, and connect over difficulties—all while working toward the same goal. “You get the leaders in the room, they’ll take care of all kinds of things. But it's often loneliness that can be the hardest part of leadership. As women, to see people who are leading like them, who look like them, has just been a really inspiring and exciting experience,” she says.

Jo Saxton speaking

Jo Saxton speaking at Ezer event

Saxton has been involved in other projects with the same aim, such as the podcast Lead Stories, co-hosted with pastor Steph O’Brien ’05, S’12, “We call it Lead Stories, tales of leadership and life. It's about having the conversations leaders need to have. We’re coming alongside other leaders, and inspiring them wherever they’re leading. We’re having those conversations that don't often happen because they might be seen as too vulnerable or too challenging.

"As Steph and I reflect on issues together, we’re offering ideas to work with, even to argue with, if needed," she says. Saxton has also written multiple books about investing in women leaders. These books focus on one’s identity and purpose and how to take hold of that both theologically and practically.

Jo Saxton Speaking

Jo Saxton and Steph O'Brien '05, S'12 (Second from left)

"Sometimes when you sow a seed you don’t know what's going to come up of it—my job is to just provide the space for that."

— Jo Saxton, executive director of The 25

Throughout her work, Saxton has witnessed the transformative power of gathering women and creating opportunities for them to grow. “To know that you can be an encouragement to somebody is a humbling thing. To give people a tool to work with and then to hear people have amazing results from that, is just wonderful. Sometimes when you sow a seed you don’t know what's going to come up of it—my job is to just provide the space for that. So it’s fun to hear, year after year, what God has done and what is continuing to do through Ezer Collective," she says.

By hearing others openly sharing their experiences in a space where they are allowed to be vulnerable, Saxton has also gained insights into the challenges and roadblocks women face in the area of leadership. "I know the heartbreak. I know the things that they didn't know, no one taught them. So I bring that experience to this situation, knowing that it's not about having all the answers, but about gathering people who will tell you the truth spiritually,and practically," she says.

“We are lifelong learners, even as leaders.”

— Jo Saxton, executive director of The 25

With The 25, Saxton is hopeful to see what results from mentorship in the beginning stages of one’s career path. “What does it look like for us to invest in leaders who are taking their first steps? What would it look like for their trajectory, their professional trajectory, if they had those important conversations at the beginning, not the end?” she says.

The overall goal of the 25 cohort program is to foster a deep understanding of women’s unique leadership and career challenges, while guiding students across all majors and interests. Ultimately, the program will help develop their character, calling, and career while building strong peer networks and discovering their identities in Christ. "We are looking at developing your character and capacity, and are looking at how you build your own community. We want you to recognize inequity and injustice, and lead other people in fresh ways," she says. 

Saxton’s hopes for the program are centered around gathering and equipping as many leaders as possible. She aims to create a community of like-minded people who can support one another in growth, regardless of their chosen fields. "My goal is that we continue to gather many students who  are saying, 'You know what, I just need someone to guide me and come along with me.’ So, tell me where you are, and I'll join you there,” she says.

By guiding these emerging leaders, Saxton believes that they will become prepared to make a significant impact in their respective industries and bring positive change. 

“Leadership is being intentional with the influence you have, and every one of us has influence.”

— Jo Saxton, executive director of The 25

Saxton ends with closing words to anyone starting out in their leadership journey. “You may not feel like you are a leader. But leadership is being intentional with the influence you have, and every one of us has influence. If you have this and wonder what to do with this, come and find us. Whatever stage of life you are. We’ll help you along the way.”

Develop your gifts by joining The 25 at Bethel.

Join the next generation of leaders. The 25 is a four-year, cohort program designed for students of all majors to become equipped for life after Bethel, and to become empowered and confident in their skills to go beyond.

Learn more