We had the good fortune of connecting with Veronica Aguilar and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Veronica, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Young & Empowered Women (Y&E) is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to raise awareness and educate others on women’s rights, empowerment and equity through professional development sessions, mentorship and networking opportunities. We provide lifelong membership benefits to a group of rising female leaders ages 21-39 who are passionate about career advancement and personal development.

There is a clear gender gap that we continue to see that is limiting our women with economic opportunities, not only in Arizona, but across the country. Young & Empowered Women is working to help solve this complex problem by providing transformational opportunities for women to reach their full potential and break down these barriers.

Based in Phoenix, Y&E has 70 active members from around the country and continues expanding with every cohort on an annual basis. Our members come from a diverse group of professional backgrounds, including the education, nonprofit, medical, political, and corporate sectors. 67% of our members identify as women of color and 60% as first generation college students. While our professional goals differ, all Y&E members share a vision of strengthening the community and raising awareness of the complexity women face in the workplace.

This organization was created to connect and impact young women from various sectors at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when networking and career coaching needed to be redefined. We identified a need for women to come together and empower each other during difficult circumstances and after our first meeting in June 2020, the members knew this organization was something special. As a group, we bring up topics such as diversity, personal branding, and how to be a powerful leader in male-dominated industries. Within one year, 30% of our women have negotiated and received a higher salary and 40% transitioned into a role that is more aligned to their career aspirations.

As founder and chair of Y&E, I am so honored and proud of the work we have done as an organization to bring together and lift rising leaders. I oversee the Board of Directors, executive committee and serve as the spokesperson for the organization. I provide one-on-one coaching for each of our members to support and develop their career trajectory.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a proud Arizona native and first-generation college student whose life mission is to promote equity within education and blaze the trail for women leaders. I am deeply excited for the growth of Young & Empowered Women as we scale our mission and expand our membership base.

Prior to launching my nonprofit Young & Empowered Women, I served as a Teach For America corps member teaching 4th grade and coaching a high school spirit line team at ASU Preparatory Academy in Phoenix. Teach For America is an organization that works to ensure all children no matter what zip code they are born into, they have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

I unapologetically believed my students would succeed and overcome the racial and systemic barriers that exist in the education system. My 4th graders were able to beat the odds and improved their end-of-year state reading exams and my dance team took home three first-place state title championships! After witnessing the disparate classroom experiences students receive based on their zip code, I wanted to scale my impact by joining the Teach For America National Recruitment Team and recruit the next generation of leaders.

During my time as a recruiter, my team was able to bring Arizona State University 10 rankings up to the top-three contributing school in the country for the first time in its history, recruiting more than 300 Sun Devils to low-income communities. I am so proud of these Sun Devils who are truly making an impact in our communities by making systemic change in education. My passion for managing and leading others towards results, led me to arrive in my current role as Senior Managing Director on the Recruitment Team. I serve as a senior leader on the team that provides strategy, direction and oversight to increase the number of teachers to join Teach For America in Arizona, California, Washington and Nevada.

I received a bachelor’s degree in Business and my MBA with a Leadership emphasis from W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University to learn the business skills needed to be an even stronger advocate and manager of large teams. I was thankful to be a recipient of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Empowering Diversity Scholarship from Fiesta Bowl/Blue Cross Blue Shield and had the opportunity to achieve my dreams and be the first in my family to graduate with both a bachelors and masters degree.

As a proud Arizona native, I care deeply about improving the community by serving on various boards. I am currently the chair of the TFA Arizona Alumni Leadership Board, member of Valley Leadership- Catalyze program and of the Young Professionals Council at Big Brothers, Big Sisters- Central Arizona. I also participated as a co-host for the Arizona PBS television segment, ‘Break It Down’ that takes a deep dive into the issues that are impacting the Phoenix community. I researched hot topics such as diversity, education and gender inequity and facilitated conversations with high-profile guests.

Life brings us many obstacles that can turn into opportunity. As an only child, I witnessed my parents work tirelessly throughout my life to give me access to an excellent education. They taught me the importance of a quality education, which led me to be a successful student, teacher and leader. The financial crisis of 2008 completely changed my world view and as a first-generation college student, I knew my education at Arizona State University would alter the destiny for me and my family. The financial crisis was a turning point because I witnessed first hand the inequities that exist in our education system. I was a recipient of several academic scholarships that supported me in my final year at Arizona State University, which is how I discovered my calling to advocate for all students no matter what zipcode or socioeconomic status they are born into.

This experience inspired me to join Teach For America, begin my journey in education and put me on a career path that emphasizes service, education and empowerment for others.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Arizona has endless hiking spots, social events, community gatherings, nightlife and top-notch food and local bars to visit! I would want to have my best friend visit during the springtime, so we would be able to attend a spring training game, visit community festivals, walk around Old Town Scottsdale, hike Piestewa Peak and enjoy the beautiful weather. Some of my favorite restaurants/bars I would take my best friend to would include, Cien Agaves, Cafe Boa, Trevors and Gadzooks!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate my shoutout to my parents, Greg and Diane Aguilar and partner, Alec Davies for their unwavering love and support during my personal development and career journey.

I would also like to dedicate my shoutout to a few groups:
Young & Empowered Women Board of Directors (Monica Trejo, Anna Carolina Ortiz, Laura Capello, Rachel Frazier Johnson, Sandy Martinez, Liliana Rodriguez, Latasha Causey) for joining me on this journey to create and scale the nonprofit organization.

Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s ATHENA network for bringing me such an incredible network of powerful, female leaders who care about service, mentorship and leadership.

Thank you to the leaders and educators in Teach For America, a diverse network of changemakers who confront educational inequity and believe that all kids no matter the zipcode deserve a quality education. I have grown both personally and professionally because of this organization in my management, advocacy and leadership skills.

Website: https://www.yewomensassociation.com/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/aguilar1490

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aguilar1490/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aguilar1490

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vunitaguilar/

Image Credits
Image Credits Career and Professional Development Services ASU Lauren Hawks Arizona PBS Arizona State University

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