By Lisa Raggio
Co-owner, One True North
In recognition of Women’s History Month, I was invited to be a co-panelist on COC’s Business Alliance monthly workshop as a woman business owner to share my experiences navigating through the past year. I was grateful for the opportunity, not only to help other women, but because it reminded me of another time in my career working with women in leadership.
Ten years ago, I worked as an executive for the YWCA, one of the oldest and largest multicultural organizations promoting solutions to enhance the lives of women, girls and families. I served at the local, regional and national level with a community of diverse women leaders.
My most meaningful experience was creating the Focus on Female Veterans program, recognized as a best practice program by the state of California and national YWCA. This led to the YWCA hosting the first of its kind leadership program for military women.
I was deeply humbled when asked to participate in this inaugural program alongside 22 other female veterans. I was the only civilian.
March is not only Women’s History Month, but in the state of California, the third week is recognized as Women’s Military History week. California is home to nearly 163,000 women who served in our U.S. military: They are Veterans, family members, friends, business owners, professionals and community leaders.
What did I learn from this unforgettable group of women? In short, in every culture, in every social issue, women are the key agents to empowering communities.
What I experienced at the end of the program was a deeper understanding that when women support women and feel they can safely grow into the best versions of themselves- our communities, states, nation, world is not only a better place — we have the ability to maximize our collective potential and thrive. And when women thrive, we all thrive.
That experience stuck with me so much that when Paul and I launched our business, I had a hunger to seek that kind of village in our own community.
After spending time with a group of other like-minded women, the WeWil (Women Empowering Women in Leadership) Collaborative was born in January 2020 in SCV.
At the onset, we collected data to identify the barriers in women developing their leadership and organized a list of substantive workshops we knew could grow our leadership muscle. Then COVID hit.
At first, we considered pausing on our kick-off workshop, but we quickly dug deep, pivoted and launched our first workshop in March 2020 to understand the fundamentals of brain science during times of crisis and the importance of developing a resilient mindset.
Shortly after, we started to plan for our second workshop set for June. Then in May, on the day we had scheduled a meeting, news of the killing of George Floyd left us distraught and bewildered. Once again, we wondered if we should pause and wait. But we quickly responded by hosting a workshop to share what it means to be an ally and to support women of color.
We followed up in the Fall with a highly engaging 2-part workshop to gain a deeper understanding of imposter syndrome and actionable steps to manage it, and ended 2020 with examining what real inclusion means and how we can provide access for diverse employees in the workplace.
Now we are preparing for a workshop in April on the art of persuasion and negotiation to empower women with tools to shape their futures and confidently advocate for ourselves in any situation.
More than 170 people have attended our virtual workshops that include professionals from different states and educational institutions such as The University of Utah and Vanderbilt University. We also have raised money for nonprofits that support women and children nationally and locally.
At the conclusion of the Business Alliance workshop, I was asked what advice I’d give other women business owners right now. I heartily offered the following: join a community of women … or start one; support other women; ask for help; and if you want to build leadership muscle, get comfortable with being uncomfortable — with other women.
Paul and I take great pride in our business, One True North, empowering the WeWil collaborative and to have started a growing community of women that seek a safe place where women can enhance their leadership development and maximize their leadership potential.
As Women’s History month comes to an end, let’s envision a future where women can continue to learn, grow, and lead in Santa Clarita. Empowering women empowers our community.
Lisa Raggio is co-owner, with her brother Paul, of One True North Inc. Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions, www.onetruenorthcoach.com.