Meet Alison Lamagna- an experienced nonprofit leader, currently working as the Director of Programs & Gender Equity at Vermont Works for Women.
Working to advance the economic independence of women in Vermont, Alison has worked in various spheres throughout her career, each with a focus on social justice and advocacy for marginalized groups- ensuring that systems, programs and workplaces are inclusive and accessible to one and all. In addition to her professional work, she manages a busy home enterprise while juggling with multiple calendars, transportation schedules, weekly meal planning and much more. When not working, she enjoys hiking, cooking, kayaking and walking through the woods in her world of thoughts.
Speaking of her childhood days, she says, “I grew up in Rhode Island, the youngest of three sisters in a middle-class family. My parents did not come from a wealthy household, but they were educated and worked hard to provide for me and my sisters. They always taught us to stand up for what we believe in and gave me my first introductions to social justice. Our family heritage is Italian and that identity was a big part of my upbringing- big family gatherings, homemade food and caring for one another. Apart from this, I enjoyed school and was a good student and athlete and went to the University of Rhode Island on a full academic scholarship,” she says.
After studying natural resources in college, she found herself caring deeply about the outer world, human impact on the environment, and the natural habitat we all are a part of. Having spent a lot of time in her younger years backpacking and exploring wild places in the US and Canada, she always envisioned working in that field, until she had her first job out of college at a human services organization, which provided services to adults with developmental disabilities. Playing this role helped her identify her love for working with people and also her passion for helping the underrepresented folks to be heard. As a result, she continued on that path for nearly 20 years before her current venture as Director of Programs & Gender Equity at Vermont Works for Women.
“Broadly, I have always approached my work through the lens of relationship building. Though it is not a radical idea, I think making real connections to people, showing compassion and empathy, and being authentic is what bring success in work and relationships,” she says.
Vermont Works for Women is a nonprofit organization based in Winooski, VT, that helps women and girls recognize their potential and explore, pursue, and excel in work that leads to economic independence. It has various youth and adult programs that provide opportunities for career exploration, job skill development, social/emotional growth, confidence-building, and financial empowerment. It also works with education and business to breakdown gender bias and provides tools for gender equity in schools, tech centres and workplaces.
As any other young person starting out in a career, she strived to learn and grow and gain experience. For a long time, even though she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do for a career because my interests were so broad, it took her some time to feel like she had settled on her ‘career track’. Today, she is a loving mother to two wonderful daughters and one of the biggest challenges of her career has been juggling between the life of a mother and a professional and the double standards that women are held to in the work culture.
Talking about her achievements and the rave reviews from her clients, she says, “We have a majority of positive feedback from our participants at Vermont Works for Women (VWW) and most leave our programs feeling empowered to make life and career decisions that meet their needs and will help them be economically independent. In addition to my role at VWW, I am also on the steering committee of Working to Advance Vermont Equity (WAVE), a group of state agency representatives and community organizations, working together to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across our state. I am also on the advisory board of Women Can Do Peru, a venture I helped initiate in Lima, Peru, and the steering committee of Change the Story VT.”
For Alison, making real connections with people has contributed immensely to her personal and professional successes. Whether engaging with new partners, building new programs, establishing collaborations, soliciting new funding, or building stellar teams, her approach involved being a compassionate leader and good listener, which she believes makes others view her as respected and trusted, something her communicational skills may have brought to her.