REACH Women’s Network

On March 6th, more than 300 professional women came together for the REACH Women’s Network annual conference. An acronym for Recognize, Encourage, Advance, Connect Her, REACH is a nonprofit with the mission of closing the gender gap by raising the collective voice and influence of women in the workplace.

As REACH marks its fifth year of existence, thousands of women are benefiting from not only the annual conference but its year-round programming, as well. REACH’s 170 members represent a diverse range of ages, ethnicities and professions. Events throughout the year focus on topics as diverse as salary negotiation, the importance of mentorship, life/work integration, self-care and the many faces of leadership. 

Just as important are the feelings of connection and empowerment that palpably fill the room at any REACH event. “Nourishing” is how Angela Blue, one of REACH’s youngest members, described it. “To see an organization advocating for the equitable advances of Forsyth County women was not just refreshing but also absolutely needed,” she said. “The opportunity to be part of this effort has been an amazing experience.”

That’s just what the founders of REACH love to hear. “Numerous studies show us that networking plays a critical role in achieving every career milestone, and it drives operational and revenue benefits for organizations, but women need more networking support,” said Iris Cole, a co-founder and co-president of REACH. 

For REACH member Leah Wyrick, that support has been life changing. When she attended the 2023 conference, she recalls, she was feeling discouraged after resigning from a corporate job that was not the right fit. “Thanks to the amazing women that spoke to me and with me, after just two hours, it was like the light turned back on, and I had a plan for my next move,” she said. Wyrick was inspired to refocus her energy bringing to market a recovery bra she had developed for women who have had any kind of breast surgery. The product, inspired by Leah’s mother’s experience with breast cancer, launches in May.

The seeds of REACH were sown in 2017, “when a diverse group of 14 women, mostly strangers, came together with a shared goal to promote equity and provide connectivity for women in the workplace,” said Julia Clinard Townsend, co-founder and co-president. “Today, thousands of working women engage with REACH initiatives and programs. The sum of this work has a powerful ripple effect because, when women thrive, communities thrive.”

REACH programs include: 

  • The fall 2023 launch of its first Leadership and Mentoring program, which links Salem College students with mentors from among REACH’s membership. Dr. Summer McGee, president of Salem Academy and College, said: “We are proud Alliance Members with REACH because of the amazing opportunities it offers women for leadership development, mentorship and networking. REACH mentors have volunteered many hours with our students to share leadership lessons.”
  • Pink Couch panel discussions, held three to four times a year. In addition to programs open to all REACH members, special editions of the Pink Couch series have been held for female leaders at local sponsor companies. 

“The Intersection of Physical, Mental and Financial Wellbeing for Women” was a collaborative program for employees of Allegacy Federal Credit Union and Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “Navigating the Grays of Negotiation” was the subject of a program hosted by Reynolds American for employees in the company. 

The panel discussion, which featured experienced women leaders from the local community, focused on dispelling misperceptions about negotiating and the power of advocating for yourself,” said Shay Mustafa, a member of the REACH board of advisors and senior vice president, business communications & sustainability for Reynolds American, Inc. “Negotiating effectively in the workplace empowers women to advocate for their work, break down gender bias and create a more inclusive working environment. It is a crucial step towards achieving gender equity.”

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion training. REACH has offered DEI workshops for the entrepreneurial community through its partnerships with the Center for Creative Economy and Winston Starts.
  • The design and execution of the Community Survey of Women in the Workplace which surveyed 700 professional women. The study found that a supportive workplace culture was as important as a competitive salary in influencing whether a respondent chooses to remain or leave her current job. An executive summary was distributed at the conference and will be available on the REACH website at 

Interested in joining? REACH will hold several virtual information sessions for prospective new members in April. More information is available on the website.


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