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Calling all women business leaders

One group of women is rallying likeminded ladies in business to band together. They’ve created a network of powerful individuals, who discuss business ownership, local law and the community, and motivate one another to achieve success.

“I am so deeply moved by and impressed with the women in this group, there were so many who volunteered – their level of commitment to this community is inspiring,” said Jo Ann Woodsum, who founded the group of professionals.

Tahoe-Truckee Women Lawyers Group

It all started when she, a local commercial leasing attorney of 30 years, shifted into her solo practice after previously working in law firms.

She noticed a lack of resources available to her – namely the lack of a network built specifically by women attorneys in the North Lake Tahoe area.

She extended an invitation to other colleagues in the area and ended up networking to find 15 women lawyers, all from Truckee, all of whom also desired a supportive group that fostered professionalism and camaraderie.

“The group just took off,” Woodsum said. “We are called the Truckee-Tahoe Women Lawyers group and now meet every second Tuesday of each month at the Family Resource Center.” Another group member, Emily Dubansky, is a former litigator who heard about the group and decided to see what the legal community of Truckee was like.

“It’s just been overwhelmingly positive and it’s really highlighted a desire that’s here for women who have an ambition and want to succeed in their business, meet other likeminded women and catch up with them,” Dubansky said.

The group originally set out to meet and connect likeminded women, but have since realized a much larger call to action.

“I would say the first step for me was that a number of people didn’t know there were women lawyers in Truckee. There’s a robust group of women business owners in the area and even if they wanted to hire a woman lawyer they simply didn’t know we existed,” Woodsum said.

Supporting Local Women Business Owners

In their effort to introduce the group to the community, Truckee-Tahoe Women Lawyers hosted a happy hour event with an unexpectedly large turnout. They are now developing a “brown bag lunch” series to provide women in business educational resources in furthering their professional plans.

“Part of our outreach for women business owners is putting on informal lunches around different topics that she might need to know,” Woodsum said.

“We cover commercial leasing, family law, business entity formation, all kinds of topics. Part is to give back to the community, and the other part is to let people know that we are here to be called on.”

The Women Lawyers group meets monthly in order to stay fresh on law regarding the community. They brainstorm and bring useful business tips to women in the area.

“It’s a small town,” Dubansky said. “A lot of people are in business by themselves and you don’t get the water cooler talk around the office; so it’s nice to have a little social connection with people who aren’t your colleagues but they’ve got the same focus.”

Dubansky said they invite all professional women to participate in their happy hour meetings, “It’s for all women in business, not just lawyers but any professional woman. We have business owners, dentists, doctors, social workers.”

Truckee Women Business Leaders Happy Hour, April 28

The next item on the agenda is an even larger meeting where they’ve partnered with Tahoe University and Atelier to host the “Truckee Women Business Leaders Happy Hour” on Friday, April 28, at Tahoe University.

The catered event will feature a craft sponsored by the women of Atelier. Professional women are invited to join an evening of food, drink, fun and networking.

“We are excited about our next event at Tahoe U. It’s a great way to connect and stay fresh on what’s happening,” Dubansky said.

Their Philosophy

Woodsum explained that her group offers a different sense of tact and care in the work they do, distinguishing women attorneys in the area.

“Historically law has been based on an antagonistic model, ‘I’m suing you, you’re my enemy, I want to win’.”

She said women tend to work together.

“Collaboration is typically viewed as a deficit in law firms valuing individuality. I think women in the last decade have been embracing the collaborative model, even in litigation – like, ‘let’s settle this in a way that everyone comes out as well as can be hoped for’,” she said.

The group’s philosophy is to handle the task at-hand and be of service to their client’s mission, rather than putting one another down.

Mentoring & Supporting Truckee’s Latin Community, Young Women

“Truckee-Tahoe Women Lawyers have the mindset of finding out how we serve our community professionally, while also being of service to younger women in the community through our work with La Fuerza,” she said.

Woodsum referred to the attorneys’ work with “La Fuerza Latina”, a program initiated at Truckee High School to support Latina students that were previously underrepresented in pursuing higher education.

“The students didn’t have an entrenched pathway that a lot of upper class kids have where the kid say, starts kindergarten and is told by their parents everything they need to do to go to Harvard, for example,” Woodsum said.

She explained that without an open dialogue on college many students interested in pursuing higher education don’t know what they need to do to get to that point.

That’s where the women’s group comes in: they host one-on-one meetings with the young girls to practice interview skills, be a sounding board for any questions the students might have, and foster genuine conversation on what it’s like to go to college, especially when they might not be in the majority culture group represented.

Their efforts mentoring high school students also called attention to the lack of legal support for immigration law in the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee area.

“People are anxious about their status due to current events and the Family Resource Center is overwhelmed. Women Lawyers launched an Immigration Services Project, they are volunteering to train and study immigration laws to help either pro-bono or at severely discounted rates for immigration law services,” Woodsum said.

The women work to support the community in any way they can.

“We want to assist people,” Woodsum said. “We want people to know how to run a business. We want people to know their rights.”

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.