As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, New York Times bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon discussed her new book, The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice. She shared her on-the-ground reporting about an extraordinary group of women who took on the Islamic State and won with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, former Los Angeles Times reporter and editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee Dan Morain discussed his new biography of Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian female Vice President with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Kamala’s Way: An American Life charts “how the daughter of two immigrants in segregated California became one of this country’s most effective power players.” Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
“Of course it’s a double standard. There’s not a politician I know that’s not ambitious - and that it was somehow a “ding” against her was clearly a double standard and unfair. Sure - she’s ambitious. So is Joe Biden, so is Trump, so is Mike Pence - they all are. You don’t become District Attorney, Attorney General, U.S. Senator without having some ambition."
- Dan Morain
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Washington Post reporter Helena Andrews-Dyer, co-author of the new book, Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters, discussed the life, wisdom, wit, legacy, and fearless style of the iconic American Congresswoman with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
“The biggest lesson I learned in studying her - studying who she is beyond the meme - is that she’s always herself. She doesn’t apologize for it ever - she leans into it. … She brings her full self to every aspect of what she does. For a Black woman, for a Black woman of her generation, that in and of itself is revolutionary.”
- Helena Andrews-Dyer
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and her daughter Jenny Kaplan, CEO of Wonder Media Network and Host of the Women Belong in the House Podcast, discussed the historic role women of the House have played, explored challenges female candidates face, and shared their outlook on what the future holds for women elected to the 117th Congress, with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
“What I found during the course of the race was that I really loved running. That was a big surprise. …. I learned that I have thicker skin than I expected. I talked with a friend who has been a Congresswoman about the terrible ads, and she said, “Oh you’re going to be too busy, you just don’t watch them.’ The other thing I learned when I lost was that I wasn’t devastated, I wasn’t crushed. I wasn’t humiliated, I thought I had done the best I could possibly do and I was very glad that I had that extraordinary experience.”
- Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC)
On Kamala Harris as VP: “I think that the fact that we have the first-ever woman vice president is really significant. There are different kinds of barriers, but the imagination barrier is actually really real. If I asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine the U.S. President, you would most likely envision an older, probably white man, because that’s who has typically been a U.S. President. That’s also true for tons of different positions. The fact that we have an example and the fact that there are little kids who will grow up with there always being women running in presidential elections, where the glass ceiling has been shattered - I think that’s really going to make a difference and that helps counteract the fact that it is really scary to run for office but also rewarding."
- Jenny Kaplan, CEO of Wonder Media Network
Veteran fundraiser Rachel Pearson kicked off the Fundraising session of #WeLead2021 by describing how a successful approach to raising money "balances a vision for why you are running with a practical approach to how you will win. Then start sharing your campaign strategy with friends and family, everyone you know, and everyone you don't know but who shares your ideological views."
After lunch, WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin moderated a panel of expert practitioners including (clockwise from bottom left) Helen Milby, Niccara Campbell, and Micah Yousefi, who shared best practices around outside fundraising support. Tips for successful women candidates include: 1/ using more data with supporters and 2/ making sure to share updates, thank yous and free events, in addition to asking for support. In terms of a career in this space, all agreed that "fundraisers are usually the first hired and the last fired."
The group spent the rest of the day with their teams for the WeLead special fundraising project. Each woman and team will practice and get comfortable asking for money over the next two months. Prizes will be given and individual headshots taken in April if the fundraising goals are met.
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, CNN White House Correspondent MJ Lee discussed the notable and historic women tapped by the Biden-Harris administration, offering an insider’s perspective to the nominations, the confirmation process, and the barrier-breaking impact that these women will have on President Biden’s pledge to “build back better” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
One of our favorite quotes:
“Because COVID is just so front and center and there just is not a bigger crisis that the administration is tackling with such urgency, I think [COVID] is where we are seeing the first, clearest signs of how they plan on really tackling and separating out the ways in which a crisis like this one can affect women differently than men. It’s obviously unfortunate, but the reality is that throughout this pandemic we have seen this virus and the economic crisis that has come with the virus affect women in worse ways than men.”
- MJ Lee, CNN White House Correspondent
In the Media & Messaging session of #WeLead2021, expert practitioners Antonia Ferrier and Melanie Newman shared best practices and pitfalls around candidate introductions, campaign communications, policy messaging and crisis response. According to Newman, at the highest level, communications is about education. "Being a smart news consumer, knowing the audience, and understanding policy will help a candidate and her team avoid mistakes and missteps." Ferrier added that the proliferation of social media platforms combined with the disappearance of local newspapers has made it even harder - but also more important - to develop a coherent, honest communications strategy. "Voters need to know who you are and where you stand, even if they disagree with you."
From the political press side, Texas Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston explained how she develops sources and stories. "I’m working, even if I’m not filing. So call and introduce yourself and your team. Tell me what you care about. It’s a 2-way street." Livingston previously worked with WPI ED Betsy Fischer Martin at NBC News, and they both shed light on background conversations, overuse of acronyms, soundbites, and other media ground rules.
Professional development coach Lisa Montenegro wrapped up the virtual session with more work on effective leadership and communication styles. According to one WeLeader, "I learned how to work and communicate better with colleagues who may have a different learning style than I do. After the brand declaration session, I finally feel like I have a direct focus in my career." Another said, "After this session I am more confident and more motivated to run for office in my home state."
Those sentiments accurately reflect the mission of WeLead - which is to give young professional women the skills and confidence to expand their influence by running for office or pursuing some other political leadership role.
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, The 19th’s CEO and Founder, Emily Ramshaw and Washington Correspondent Amanda Becker shared their analysis and reporting on the 2020 results with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
"I think the overarching sentiment is that there’s about half of the women’s electorate that we don’t know nearly as well as we need to. These takeaways in particular with White women were largely unchanged [from 2016] despite all these predictions that there would be this seismic or sizable growing gender gap. And yet again, the Democrats are very reliant on Black women voters to get them across the finish line. How deep these divisions remain across the women’s electorate, is an enormous story for us--coming out of this election.”
- Emily Ramshaw
“I think [Dr. Jill Biden continuing her career] is really appealing to women. I think that women across ideologies cheer for women when they’re breaking both barriers and stereotypes. And this is a more modern marriage that we’re going to see in the White House, for both Biden and Harris. Dr. Jill Biden has maintained her own identity and her own career; Kamala Harris kept her last name in marriage, and he [Emhoff] is going to take a leave of absence from his work.These are two marriages that defy partnerships and defy how we have traditionally done things in this country. I think a lot of women are looking forward to seeing that play out at the highest level of government.”
- Amanda Becker
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Film director Cheryl Jacobs Crim, former professional soccer player Joanna Lohman, political activist Mimi Hassanein, and civil rights activist Margaret Morrison discussed their film Resisterhood and the “power of women, hope and resistance in modern American politics,” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
"Women are ready. I think that COVID-19 is giving us more time to get organized, to share our perspectives, and go out and talk about our issues. We were living in a very fast paced life, and we [women] didn’t have time - trying to handle kids, and the household, and the husband… it was so much! But now women are fed up - really fed up - and they want to see change.”
- Mimi Hassanein
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, American University alumna Julie Conway (BA/SPA ‘93), Executive Director of VIEW PAC and Rebecca Schuller, Advisor and Board Member of Winning for Women, discussed their efforts to support and elect GOP women with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
“I think that  was definitely a wake-up call. I think a lot of Republican women saw that Democratic women get elected and once they started to serve, they realized the things the Democratic women were talking about it wasn’t the things that Republican women were talking about. So, in order to counterbalance that, they said, ‘look I can’t complain about this, I need to raise my hand and run, myself.’ And we hadn’t seen anything like that before.”
- Julie Conway
“We saw 2018 as a true rallying cry when we saw those numbers dip down to 13 [women] and then dip even further, with two retirements, to 11. That really showed all of us the true need for smart, efficient, well-run organizations that can come in and identify, recruit, and get these women in and help them through this election cycle.”
Why aren’t there more women in public office? That was the question we explored at the second session of WeLead 202-2021 by looking at self, others, and trends in gender politics. Amanda Hunter began the day sharing research from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation about women overcoming obstacles and getting elected, as well as women leading effectively in a crisis. Hunter, who is the Communications and Research Director at BLFF, had these specific tips: 1/ Be a Team Captain 2/ Highlight your credentials 3/ Hire a diverse staff 4/ Line up validators and 5/ Over-budget fundraising time.
Next, we focused on self-awareness, and learning about each others’ backgrounds, sheroes, dreams and fears. This exercise enhanced everyone’s appreciation of different perspectives, and communication and leadership styles. The work dove-tailed with a Professional Development session on personal branding. Leadership coach Lisa Montenegro sees parallels in her work on branding with both corporate executives and emerging leaders, and across all walks of life - personal, political, and professional. “Do the work to discover your authentic self. Then double down on your strengths. Identify and fix your fatal flaws. Ignore the rest.”
Montenegro and Represent co-author Kate Black refute the idea that branding and introspection are inconsistent with public service. Particularly with regard to women in public office, Black writes that if more women want to get elected, they have to get comfortable with self-promotion, even if it feels ‘unseemly’ or ‘unfeminine’. The book quotes Representative Pamila Jayapal (D-WA-7), “You just have to learn to tout yourself. Steel yourself to the cries of being overly ‘ambitious’ or ‘confident’. Stand strong. Refuse to be patronized or minimized.” Black adds, “Telling people you are going to run for office is the first of many, many, many, MANY times you will be talking about yourself to others (ideally in glowing terms) when you’re campaigning. So it’s time to get comfortable doing it.”
The day-long session encouraged the women in #WeLead2021 to identify their passions, take credit for their talents, and prepare to lead and serve others with confidence.
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond of the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP), Executive Director Sara Guillermo of IGNITE, and American University alumna Dr. Melissa Deckman (Ph.D/SPA ‘99) of Washington College discussed the politics and priorities of women across generations, with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
"The story of the last election was the older voter, typically the older white voter of both genders, delivered mightily for President Trump. In 2018 when Democratic control of the House moved and was powered in part by 50+ women who reduced their commitment to Republicans and instead voted more for Democrats. Now the story in 2020 is that Vice President Biden has done considerably better with the 65+ as we approach the election and is running ‘basically even’ with Trump on the 50-64 year olds.”
- Nancy Leamond
“Gen Z started voting in 2014 and thinking about the midterms for them, they were voting at about 35%...We know that Gen Z and Millennials make up about 40% of this electorate and there is definitely a lot of power behind that.”
- Sara Guillermo
“I think what we’re going to find in this election cycle is that Gen Z women will outperform Gen Z men when it comes to the ballot box...much like the voting patterns for older generations as well. Looking at overall levels of political engagement, what we’re seeing with Gen Z is this unprecedented reverse gender gap in political participation. We know that in recent years, men and women have caught up when it comes to political participation, whether it’s volunteering for campaigns or giving donations. But among this generation, we’re finding that young women are far more motivated to be involved in politics. So I think that’s something that’s really important to watch as we move forward past this election cycle.”
- Dr. Melissa Deckman
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, former CNN Anchor and 2012 Presidential Debate Moderator Candy Crowley, Political Strategist Karen Finney, and MSNBC’s “Way too Early” and NBC News Correspondent Kasie Hunt analyzed the only vice presidential debate of 2020, with a particular focus on Kamala Harris, the first African-American and first Asian-American woman VP candidate on a major party ticket with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
“There’s a long way to go. And not just in politics - in media: who’s on the air, who’s not on the air. This is a long-haul fight. I think the idea that we’re clicking on lightbulbs everywhere - that when you hear this, this is code for that…I think that’s progress. But it takes a while. It takes a while in politics, and it takes a while in journalism, and in corporate board rooms. I wish it would happen tomorrow.”
- Candy Crowley
“The racial dynamic in this is also very important: as a Black woman, we don’t get to have the same range of emotions publicly as White women do. We are aware of that and how we express ourselves around that, and is all part of how we think about how people are going to perceive the information. Frankly, you want to make sure that as the messenger, your attributes are not getting in the way of the channel.”
- Karen Finney
“I’ve learned from many many people over the course of my career, thankfully many women, but also I’ve watched men do the job, and you try sometimes when you’re young to emulate what they’re doing. You sort of realize that there are people that are holding women to a different standard."
- Kasie Hunt
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, EMILY’s List’s President, Stephanie Schriock and Vice President of Communications, Christina Reynolds, co-authors of the forthcoming book, Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World, discussed “essential lessons for any woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated field” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
"The pearls that you find in your communities, the women that have rolled up their sleeves to fix the school, or to get the stop sign, or to figure out the playground, or to deal with the cleaning up of the river… those are the gems that you want to run and will rise to the very top. It’s not a rock star fancy pants person, it is a roll-up her sleeves, she’s already in there doing something. The truth is, she probably hasn’t even thought about running for office because she’s too busy cleaning the river and someone’s got to say to her, ‘You should run for city council; you should run for county commissioner; you should run for the legislature.’ ”
“It’s not impossible, just because you might be the first woman this community has elected, or just because you might be the first person in this space to look like you, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means that you need to go in with your eyes open...Every woman who runs, and every woman who gets elected, helps the next woman in showing her what she can do, hopefully they look at those women and see people like me can do this.”
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Former Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA) discussed her new book, She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality, which chronicles her experience with “misogyny and double standards in politics to help women topple the longstanding power structures that prevent them from achieving equality” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
“I felt like it was really important to me - for everything that I had put into this, for everything that so many other people had put into this - I felt that I needed to show that it wasn’t for nothing. Even though I was stepping away, I wasn’t going to give up the fight altogether. I feel a particularly strong need to double down and to invest myself in empowering and uplifting other women who can take up the mantle as elected officials and other positions of power. I’m finding my voice and I’m figuring out the ways that I can make an impact."
- Former Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA)
American University’s Women & Politics Institute launched WeLead 2020-21 on Saturday, September 19 with a broad overview of how, why and when to run for office from Represent co-author Kate Black. With regard to the question of why, Black said women “tend to run to solve problems in their communities.” Black also answered questions about timing, authenticity, and double standards.
The virtual session ended at the opposite end of the spectrum, with WeLead alumna Ellen Kamei sharing her journey of running, winning and leading in office. Kamei is serving in her second year as Vice Mayor of Mountain View, CA. The global pandemic and wildfires in California have certainly created challenges for local leaders, but Kamei said that “government can move quickly during a crisis” and gave an example of the City Council passing a rental relief bill in her town in just 10 days.
In between those two practical and informative speakers, WeLead alumni Ali Weinroth ‘19, Ashley Fox ‘16, Jessica Davis ‘12, Keren Johnson ‘08, Liz Murphy ‘12 and Megan O’Donnell Bell ‘10 shared their insights and wisdom with this year’s class. Recurring themes included collaboration, skill development, believing in yourself, humility and intentionality. The panel provided an insider’s point of view on:
- the importance of developing mentors and peer supporters,
- being intentional but flexible with a professional or political career path,
- the differences between being in an advocacy versus legislative role,
- how to stay connected and prepare to run in a local district,
- choosing to work behind the scenes on policy or campaigns, and
- the skills and strategies needed for a successful career on Capitol Hill, and knowing when it’s time to leave.
The day-long session inspired and encouraged the women in #WeLead2021 to run for office, run a campaign or run a communications team. “You are qualified (to run) today. Your experience is your expertise,” Black told the room. Murphy added, “Find a common denominator and get to work!”
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Kristin Kim Bart, Senior Director for Gender Equality at the International Rescue Committee, discussed the IRC’s report, When Returning to Normal Doesn’t Work for Half the World’s Population: How to Build Back Better. The conversation amplified how following times of crises, how critically important it is for women, “that we do not just get back to “normal,” but that we actively build back better.” Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
“Gender equality is not a reality, not in the lives of women and girls here in the U.S., not in the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan, and other places around the world. What we have learned through crisis and conflict where you have social, political, and economic systems really turned upside down, it is actually a moment and an opportunity for rethinking and doing things differently. We certainly hope that this is the moment to look at gender equality issues and to build back better."
- Kristin Kim Bart
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, award-winning journalists Lynn Sherr and Ellen Goodman, co-hosts of the She Votes! Our Battle for the Ballot podcast, discussed the complex history of the women’s suffrage movement, and its enduring significance during their tenure reporting on women’s rights and social change issues with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
“The way in which these women persisted over generations and decades until they finally won... I think that’s telling for us now because I think that we tend to get impatient, and we just have to recognize even now that when we’re facing issues of voter suppression that persistence is what it is about.”
- Ellen Goodman
“Keep in mind three generations of women is what it took us. More than 72 years to get us the right to vote. There were a lot of false starts, there were a lot of years where nothing happened, and yet they persisted.”
- Lynn Sherr
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Dr. Martha S. Jones of Johns Hopkins University discussed her forthcoming book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, “the epic history of African American women's pursuit of political power,” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Watch the full replay here
One of our favorite quotes:
"I wanted to wrestle forthrightly with the question of what did 1920 actually accomplish for American women and the story of African-American women, their disenfranchisement, even after ratification of a federal amendment. This really opens the door to thinking about the limits of the 19th Amendment. The 19th Amendment guarantees no American woman to vote - not a one, but many more, some women, are better positioned to take advantage of prohibition, using sex as a voting criteria - some women are better positioned than others to take advantage of that."
- Dr. Martha S. Jones
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Dr. Stacie Taranto and Dr. Leandra Zarnow, co-editors of the new book, Suffrage at 100: Women in American Politics Since 1920, discussed women's engagement in electoral politics over the past one hundred years with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Read their Gender on the Ballot blog post here and watch the full replay here
Some of our favorite quotes:
“Our American political system was literally founded on women’s exclusion. The notion was ‘women don’t need the vote or in elected office because they belong in the home, raising the next generation of leaders.’"
- Dr. Stacie Taranto
“It’s important to be mindful at this 100 year mark, how far we need to go...that we go from equal voting power to equal political power. Why is it that this part of the struggle for full political citizenship and leadership and a seat at the table is still a struggle in the United States? We can really think about that and refocus.”
- Dr. Leandra Zarnow
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), author of the new book, Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change, reflected on her personal journey as an immigrant woman of color to the corridors of power with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
One of our favorite quotes:
“You have to say your accomplishments very clearly at least three times. Because people don’t listen to you, if they listen to you they don’t hear you, and if they hear you they don’t believe you. That’s the typical way people see women candidates and particularly women of color candidates. So we have to get a little bit better about bragging, even if people call us “too ambitious,” “over confident,” or whatever else they say about us that they don’t say about men.”
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, AU Alumna Jennifer Palmieri, author of the new book, She Proclaims: Our Declaration of Independence from a Man's World, reflected on her personal experiences as Director of Communications for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama, sharing key lessons she's learned from her journey to success with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
One of our favorite quotes:
“More women in the room begets more women in the room. More women with power begets more women with power. We are actually not in competition with each other. We are each other’s support system.” - Jennifer Palmieri
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, discussed holding her own in the world of domestic and international power politics and the importance of taking a principled stand even when it is unpopular, with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
One of our favorite quotes:
“I will say to any ladies listening to this, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we need your voice. We are 51% of the voting population. I’m a fan of women, we’re amazing at what we do, but what we do is we second guess ourselves. It's just a second nature that we have...We wait for others to validate. You don’t need any validation. You need your gut. If you feel like you can make a difference, jump!” - Amb. Nikki Haley
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Executive Director Lucinda Guinn, discussed their efforts at the DCCC to build on the midterm momentum in 2020 with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. They also highlighted some Democratic "women to watch” and talked about the political landscape in some of their most targeted races. Watch the replay on C-SPAN here and Bloomberg News coverage here
Some of our favorite quotes:
"We have more women in Congress now than who have ever served in Congress. Our hope is that number continues to grow and that it is the norm to see a women in Congress, in the House." - Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)
“There are barriers to entry for women that we have to work very hard to overcome. Some women have, for years, felt a fear of stepping up and running for office, “how do I raise the money, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not good at public speaking, I have to fit this mold and be this sort of persona.” For the last 10 years we’ve seen women just throw that rule-book out.” - Lucinda Guinn
Watch the full replay here
JUNE 24: As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Symone Sanders, Senior Advisor to the 2020 Biden For President Campaign and author of, No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth to Power and Reclaiming America, shared her no-prisoners approach to life, politics, and career success with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
Some of our favorite quotes:
“We’re in an inflection point in this country...now it’s really important for a myriad number of voices to be represented in this dialogue. People of color, women especially, and young people. So that is why it is important to speak up. Because I think our voices and our participation change things.”
“I think for young people, especially for students right now who might be watching this, the lesson from that is [my meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders] we are not all going to be sitting in front of a U.S. Senator who happens to be running for President; may be some of us, but I think we all have that moment when we’re presented with an opportunity and then we have to make a decision about if we are going to speak up about what it is that we want. So, I would encourage folks to ask for what we actually want and know we deserve.”
Watch the full replay here
JUNE 17: As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), author of the newly published memoir, Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country That Raised Me, shared the many lessons she learned as a farm girl in Iowa, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and an underdog candidate for the Senate with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin. Through it all, she learned “to believe when others didn’t, to raise her own voice for those who couldn’t, and to silence the naysayers (even herself) to become a bold leader and a fierce advocate.”
Some of our favorite quotes:
“It’s so important for women engaging in politics to not try to be like the men. Why would we want to be like the men? We do have different experiences as women.”
“You can be a mom, and you can be a woman who wears the uniform, you can be someone who has a career, you can be a stay-at-home mom, too.” Whatever it is, this is what a woman can do.”
“The advice I’ve always given to women...is always, when you walk into that room, you present yourself as the subject-matter expert. Whatever your passion is, know it inside and out, and leave no doubt in any man’s mind that you know what you’re talking about. That will dispel any concerns that those gentlemen have about your rightful place in that room.”
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, author of the forthcoming book, Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make It Work for You, discussed the importance of diplomacy and etiquette in every arena--from the international stage to everyday life with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
Marshall chronicled her long career working at the highest levels of government, including as Chief of Protocol for President Barack Obama and as Social Secretary to President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. Providing a “master class in soft power,” she shared the personal stories, near-misses and successes from her time in office, illustrating how crucial protocol and diplomacy are.”
Some of our favorite quotes:
“Protocol is a superpower because it has the hidden power of using micro moves, small details, that when put together it has an extraordinary macro effect. I saw that super power in effect time and time again.”
“I internalized that discrimination, and [Growing up as the daughter of two parents who immigrated to the U.S.,] I wanted to always in my future in some way, somehow celebrate these differences, celebrate these wonderful cultures, get to know people from other places, and know why they have may certain traditions, and for them also to really get to know us as Americans. It is a powerful, powerful way to enter a relationship, a negotiation, is to express who you are authentically and forthrightly, and also have a sense of curiosity as to who are they? The Cultural IQ is so so very important in your professional life and in your personal life.”
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, the National Republican Congressional Committee's Recruitment Chair, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Executive Director Parker Hamilton Poling discussed efforts to recruit more female candidates, and highlighted some GOP "women to watch” with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
Some of our favorite quotes:
“We’ve got to get our women donors, on their own, to be giving more money to women candidates, and we’ve got to be getting the male donors, on their own, to be giving Republican women more funding. That’s something I’ve been saying and I will keep saying, we’ve got to financially support women...at any level that you can handle at this point.” - Rep. Susan Brooks
“You can win if you don’t run… A lot of our candidates were actually inspired by the record number of Democrat women who were elected and the sight of them on swearing-in day on the House floor was really powerful. A lot of Republican women looked at that and said, ‘I support women in office…, but those women don’t represent my political beliefs. I am inspired by them to run, but want to present a different point of view." - Parker Hamilton Poling
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin spoke with Cecilia Muñoz, author of the just-published book, More than Ready: Be Strong and Be You....and Other Lessons for Women of Color on the Rise,
If you haven't read the book yet, you can purchase a copy of "More Than Ready" here.
Some of our favorite quotes:
“We [women of color] developed the same strategies for dealing with that self-doubt, the first of which is to over-prepare. The title of my book is “More than Ready” which refers to the notion that the world is more than ready for the leadership that we bring, but it also refers to the fact that when we doubt ourselves and can sense that other people doubt us, we buckle down and do the work and make sure we are ready.”
“I’ve learned that sometimes we hold ourselves back because we hear other people’s doubts, we have self-doubt. If you’ve never seen somebody like you in a role, then you feel like you’re inventing it and you wonder whether or not you belong. The key is to walk in...with clarity that what you bring really matters.”
Watch the full replay here
As part of WPI’s “Women on Wednesdays” series, WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin, spoke with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and author of the New York Times bestseller, Finding My Voice: When The Perfect Plan Crumbles, The Adventure Begins.
Valerie discussed her upbringing, the importance of mentors during her early career in government, and her friendship with the Obama First Family. When asked, “What advice do you have for young women who want to run for office or pursue another career in public service?” Valerie responded, “Do so. Do so. Take that leap of faith.”
As a reminder, you can share the replay with others, or re-watch any part of the discussion here. If you haven't read the book yet, you can purchase a copy of "Finding My Voice" here.
Some of our favorite quotes:
“You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I say that still having a hard time doing it. It’s something in our DNA as women...Even if [advocating for yourself] makes you uncomfortable, just keep practicing it. You have to be able to speak up for yourself.”
“[My grandmother] had this unmistakable ability to read me and tell when I was nervous about something, and she’d get me to open up and spill my guts about whatever was worrying me. For every career move, she would say, ‘Take a chance, take a risk, put yourself out there in the path of lightning."
Watch the full replay here
Molly outlined the path that Pelosi took to get where she is today in political leadership, noting that “Because there have been so few women in high political office, there aren’t a lot of archetypes for how to be that, and she’s very much done it her own way, rather than following any previous prescription.”
Some of our favorite quotes from Molly about Pelosi's career in politics:
“When you study women politicians, there’s often this effect that women resist to soften them, to define them by their families, children, outfits, hair, and whatever else; oddly, for Nancy Pelosi it’s been the opposite. She’s always been defined as this ruthless, partisan, rigid, domineering archetype, and she has, at various times, tried to soften her image to point out, ‘Look, I’m a grandmother, I was an Italian Catholic housewife before I went into politics,’ but that side of her never really entered the public persona, but she is both of those things. She is a complex character for that reason. Whereas so many female politicians try to harden their image and make themselves seem almost more masculine…, Nancy Pelosi has never done that. She’s always embraced a very feminine public image.”
“When she announced that she was going to seek this position as Democratic Whip, word came back to her through the House grapevine that what the men in charge were saying was, “Who said she could run?” and her reaction to that was, “Well light my fire, why don’t you.” It just gave her motivation because to her, she didn’t need anybody’s permission and she shouldn’t have had to ask for anybody’s permission; the idea that she did was infuriating enough to motivate her more.”
Molly also wrote a blog post for our Gender on the Ballot partnership with the Barbara Lee Family Foundation about Pelosi, self-promotion, and knowing your value. You can read that here.
Watch the full replay here
For the sixth and final WeLead session of 2019-2020, the class learned from seasoned Capitol Hill veterans Amanda Fuchs Miller and Kathryn Lehman about lobbying and special interest groups. Fuchs Miller spent more than a decade working on campaigns, followed by several years in the Clinton and Obama administrations. She went on to found Seventh Street Strategies where she consults with non-profits to provide advocacy, policy and communications support. She shared how lobbyists and special interest groups can be an invaluable resource - as policy experts for Hill staffers and as a way for campaigns to amplify their messages and educate voters.
Lehman concurred that lobbying is about developing relationships and messengers. As the head of Holland & Knight’s Public Policy group, Lehman brings three decades of experience working across the aisle and with outside groups to develop coalitions and support important legislation. She boils a winning strategy down to answering a few key questions: “Why are you doing this?” and “What do voters think?”
Later in the day, SBDigital Partner Sulli Norris-Cole and Vice President Zandria Haines described how digital advertising and GOTV strategies are increasingly popular with candidates, even before COVID19, but especially now. The technology side of digital outreach has changed and accelerated dramatically in the 21st century. At the same time, creative production costs have decreased, making digital a very nimble and relatively inexpensive tool for message testing, persuasion, and voter turnout.
Haines is also a Welead alumna and was able to share a bit about her career path. “I was a young staffer on Capitol Hill (when I was in Welead) and while I loved the experience, I knew it wasn't for me. WeLead opened my eyes to the many opportunities in politics outside of Capitol Hill that I never would have explored otherwise.”
The remote platform allowed for plenty of Q&A and a social hour between sessions.
WPI and Running Start hosted a virtual book discussion on women in Congress with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Jennifer Steinhauer, author of the just published book, The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress. Betsy Fischer Martin and Susannah Wellford, Founder and CEO of Running Start, facilitated the discussion.
The program began with Jennifer Steinhauer describing the reasons she felt driven to write the book. She was deeply interested in the wide range of diverse “firsts” that the women who won brought to Congress including age, race, religion, and even career backgrounds. The group of women with military and national security backgrounds particularly piqued Steinhauer’s interests, with a curiosity of how these women found themselves serving their country in this new and unique outlet.
Steinhauer was joined by one of the trail-blazing new female Members of Congress - former undercover CIA officer, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who became the first woman elected to her district in Virginia after defeating a two-term incumbent in the 2018 midterms. Spanberger addressed the current global pandemic and how she is using her voice as a member of Congress to hear and feel the needs of her constituents. She admitted she “always loved politics, but wasn’t really engaged in politics,” but this changed after the 2016 elections when she felt a “significant desire” to get involved in her community.
After their discussion, Rep. Spanberger took questions from the audience. When asked about her path to getting to office, Spanberger gave the following advice: “There’s no perfect path, and if there’s any group of congress that shows that, it’s the 116th class of congress.”
Some of our favorite quotes:
“When you are ready to run for office, regardless of what office it is - if it’s Congress, if it’s school board, if it’s Senate, if it’s state delegate - be fearless about it. And when people doubt you, then that should fuel you to prove them wrong ... You need to demonstrate the belief in yourself and your capacity that you want others to have in you, because that’s where they will get it from." - Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)
“I know I’m being used as a teachable moment when parents tell their young girls “This is your congresswoman. “I’m proud of the legislative achievements that I’ve made in just some months, but the fact that in our generation there’s a whole bunch of us, that's actually really good. There’s a little bit of something for everybody and our role isn’t for the one special woman to rise. Ideally, it’s just as attainable for women as it is from men.” - Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)
"A lot of times people ask me, 'How did Nancy Pelosi deal with all these different factions?' I think she spent a long time in Congress learning how to manage all different elements as the most powerful woman in Washington in dealing with a very diverse caucus. What could be challenging for her was trying to make sure that women, in particular, who had a lot of political power, leveraged that into legislative power and to be a force for good." - Jennifer Steinhauer, Author
If you missed the event, you can watch the full stream here.
Check out Jennifer Steinhaur’s recent Gender on the Ballot blog post on women candidates here.
The fifth session closed out our Professional Development work with coach Lisa Montenegro explaining how the inner game (assumptions, judgments and feelings) shapes your ability to be effective in the outer game. The session was book-ended with exercises and instruction from WeLead alumna Elizabeth-Burton Jones on Public Speaking, including preparation, delivery and recovery.
The mid-day programming featured a panel of female experts who shared lessons learned and best practices in polling, advertising, direct mail and speechwriting. Molly Murphy, a Partner at Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, explained how polling helps hone campaign messaging to better align a candidate’s priorities with constituent concerns. Kim Alfano, who was one of the first women to develop conservative campaign advertising, agreed that all political communications should connect positions and policies with voters at an emotional and personal level.
Julie Greene Collier discussed the many ways the AFL-CIO communicates with its members about policies, and politics. The AFL-CIO represents a large voting bloc, and it frequently employs direct mail to advocate for a specific issue or candidate. Greene Collier stressed that direct mail is an approach that can be customized for small and large budgets, and can be rolled out in single or multiple iterations.
Senior Strategist for Amazon Brin Frazier boiled down speechwriting into three key components – problem, solution and conclusion. She expanded on details about structure, strategy and tactics, and reminded the audience how important it is to have one voice in a campaign focused on ‘we’ solutions. Frazier also noted that speechwriting is one of the most affordable pieces of a campaign, and that practice is critical, so say yes to kindergarten graduation speeches and other opportunities to develop your message and style.
A final highlight of the day was celebrating the conclusion of the WeLead Special Project on Fundraising. The 2019-20 class were committed, creative and genuine in their outreach, and raised over $14,000 to sustain the program for the future.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, WPI partnered with the Kennedy Political Union, Delta Phi Epsilon, Women's Initiative, and American University's International Relations Society to host a panel of women ambassadors to the United States.
Members of the AU community and the public filled the Founders Room excited to hear from female ambassadors to the United States from around the world. The panelists included Ambassador Hunaina Sultan Al Mughairy of Oman, Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana of Rwanda, Ambassador Roya Rahmani of Afghanistan, and Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir of Iceland, with WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin moderating the discussion.
The ambassadors spoke about their backgrounds, which include such diverse experiences as surviving a genocide, living in a refugee camp, pursuing graduate education in New York, and teaching university classes in California. They also talked about how they have seen women’s political representation grow in their own countries, and their hopes for women’s equality and political representation moving forward. Their collective message was one of hope, but they acknowledged that there is still a long way to go toward full equality for women.
In case you missed it, you can watch the livestream here.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, WPI partnered with APCO Worldwide and the Close Up Foundation to convene a group of young leaders and congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. Executive Chairman of APCO Worldwide Margery Kraus and WPI's Betsy Fischer Martin welcomed the audience of students and young professionals over breakfast followed by remarks from Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Sharice Davids (KS-3), Judy Chu (CA-27), Christopher Smith (NJ-4), David Cicilline (RI-1), and Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6).
Check out this video to see some of our favorite highlights.
The fourth session of the WeLead campaign training program for young professional women focused on the skills, talents and tips for running a successful campaign. Campaign Management experts included Kristin Davison, General Consultant at Axiom Strategies, who shared how to choose and join a campaign, how to hire and manage a staff, and how to have hard conversations with candidates about budgets. Allison Teixeira Sulier, Chief of Staff for Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS-3), discussed how she used her expertise in communications to join a campaign, and how she was later able to transfer the communications, management and organizational skills from campaign-life into her current position on the Hill. Niccara Campbell, Political Director for the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, emphasized the important work she is doing to recruit and fund women of color to run for office. She pointed out one of the pitfalls of working on campaigns, which is low pay and/or no pay for an initial period. On the opposite side of the aisle, Aly Higgins Wheeler founded her political fundraising business, Wheelerhouse LLC, in order to help conservative women get elected while working from her home base in Washington DC, rather than out on the campaign trail.
These four women collectively have decades of experience managing and working on campaigns and were happy to share with the 36 women in the current WeLead class. It was particularly nice for the women to hear from WeLead alumnae Teixeria Sulier and Higgins Wheeler. Higgins Wheeler noted, "WeLead gives real life examples of strong women working in politics. The program offers insight into many different aspects of the political world, and emphasizes the importance of networking and community."
Speaking from the candidate's perspective, former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) explained how she went from working as a lawyer and in federal agencies to running for office. One reason she ran? She was asked, which is especially important for female candidates. Comstock had lived, worked and raised a family in her Northern Virginia neighborhood for 20 years, but learned so much about the concerns and lives of her neighbors while knocking on 10,000 doors to get elected to the Virginia Statehouse. From there, she went on to serve two terms in Congress, working on passion projects like taxes and transportation.
Another part of the day was spent sharing updates and best practices on fundraising . Each WeLead member has an individual and team goal, which helps offset the cost of the program.
Experts gathered for a panel discussion about Gender on the Ballot’s latest research: Stepping Up and Standing Out: Women's Political Participation in 2020. WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin led a panel discussion with Alexi McCammond, a political reporter with Axios, Amanda Hunter, Research and Communications Director of The Barbara Lee Family Foundation, and Kate Jeffers, a director with the Benenson Strategy group, who conducted the survey.
Students, faculty members, and staff listened as Jeffers presented findings from a recent poll of likely 2020 voters that explored barriers to female political participation and the way in which women are “stepping up and standing out” to make a change in the political process.
The survey found that—among women overall—only 16% said that they were less involved in the political process in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. 40% of Democratic women said they planned to get more involved this election cycle, and across all gauges of political action, women of color are participating at record high levels. “Beyond women voting -- which they are certainly doing in record numbers – we are peeling back to look at why they are participating and, if not, how can we break down those barriers,” says Fischer Martin. “We know the more engaged women in politics, the more apt they are to run for office. I am encouraged by the data.”
After presenting the findings, Jeffers joined Hunter, McCammond, and Fischer Martin for a discussion of notable takeaways and key themes from the study. The panelists discussed the implications of lower levels of political participation among Republican women compared to Democrats. “That’s a huge warning sign for the Republican party because they have been losing female voters to the Democratic party at pretty fast rates in the last few cycles – not just in voter trends, but in candidates stepping up to run for office at every level,” said McCammond. “The country is changing demographically and women are feeling their power more in elections. The Democratic party is figuring out how to capitalize on that and bring more people into the fold and the Republican party is sort of stalling on how to do that.”
Ultimately, Jeffers said the data shows that women plan to keep showing up. “2016 marked a new era of women’s involvement in political issues and campaigns [that] shows no signs of stopping in the 2020 cycle,” she said. Given the recent developments in the Democratic presidential campaign, the discussion also focused on the various obstacles that women are often forced to overcome in the political arena. “As a woman, you have to put in twice the amount of work for half of the recognition. And women have to satisfy two gender stereotypes to lead - to show you are strong enough but still likable.” Though women must navigate the difficult terrain of the “likability factor” and double standards, the panelists optimistically concluded that the future for women in the political process looks bright.
In case you missed it, you can watch the full panel here.
The Women & Politics Institute hosted three dynamic female mayors from across the U.S. to discuss women's political leadership at the executive level. The bipartisan discussion, moderated by WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin and co-sponsored by AU's Metropolitan Policy Center (MPC), highlighted the challenges and opportunities the mayors have experienced as women leaders.
Panelists included Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Mayor Betsy Price, of Ft. Worth, Texas. One question that moderator Betsy Fischer Martin had for the mayors was how they overcome taking charge in their roles while also facing negative gendered stereotypes. Mayor Price responded, “I’ve spent 95% of my life in working spaces dominated by men, and you just learn. You must speak up for yourself but mostly, you have to have a passion for what you do.” When answering whether they’ve found other female mayors to be a support system, Mayor Spicer added, “I just love seeing my sister mayors coming together and having this moment together.”
View photos from the event here, and watch the livestream here.
The November fundraising session began with long-time fundraiser and founder of The LS Group Lisa Spies, emphasizing curiosity and generosity over a more transactional approach. She went on to elaborate about hosting breakfast events, digital outreach, and call days (which is different than call time). She was joined by Jessica Brouckaert, an attorney at Dickinson Wright, who outlined campaign finance rules and regulations.
Next up was a panel of female fundraisers with decades of experience working for dozens of well-known candidates between them. Liesl Hickey, partner at Ascent Media, Ali Lapp, founder of The House Majority PAC, and Democratic Strategist China Dickerson talked to the class about PACS, SuperPACs, Independent Expenditures, dark money and more. They explained how these groups identify and fund candidates, and all agreed that in the current regulatory climate, candidates need to embrace all-types of fundraising in order to broadly share their messages and ultimately execute their platforms.
Over lunch, the WeLead Special Project on Fundraising was introduced. Working in teams, the women will develop a three-month campaign to raise awareness and funds for the program. In keeping with the mission of WeLead to close the gender gap in political leadership, this is a critical piece of giving women the confidence and skills they need to run for office.
The day ended with an exercise and instruction on Networking from professional development coach Lisa Montenegro. Directly related to fundraising, the conversation focused on mutually-beneficial relationships, networking inner and outer circles, and ‘friend-raising’.
The Women & Politics Institute joined the School of Communication and the Sine Institute for Politics & Policy for a screening of Knock Down the House, a riveting documentary which chronicles the endeavors of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin as they mounted campaigns during the historic 2018 midterm cycle.
Moderated by Executive Director of the Sine Insitute for Politics & Policy Amy Dacey and Executive in Residence at the School of Communication Molly O’Rourke, a panel discussion followed the film screening to dissect various elements of the documentary. Director Rachel Lears, executive producer and AU alum Cherry Graziosi (SOC/MA '91), and former congressional candidate Amy Vilela (D-NV), sat down to discuss the film-making process, as well as the broader political landscape as it currently stands. Vilela spoke both passionately and candidly, noting that the fight against the establishment is still ongoing. “If they’re not going to give you a seat at the table, bring a lawn chair. If they aren’t going to listen to you, raise your voice even louder,” she urged.
WeLead’s Communications & Messaging session on Saturday highlighted political and campaign communications careers. Panelists included: Ashley Fox, Deputy Chief of Staff for D.C. City council member Elissa Silverman; Meredith Kelly, Communications Director, Gillibrand 2020; and Pamela Stevens, Director of Specialty Media, Charlotte 2020. The path to success was different for each panelist, but shared some common traits, such as taking chances, believing in yourself, respecting others, and doing the work.
WeLead alumna Ashley Fox shared with the group the value of trying new things, being honest with yourself about what you enjoy, and identifying your strengths. Fox started as an intern at a non-partisan non-profit, working with colleges and universities to recruit and keep young people in federal civil service. From there, Fox volunteered on a campaign for a first-time candidate running for D.C. City Council. She ultimately joined the staff, and within five years was named Deputy Chief of Staff. Fox said to the room, “My WeLead experience was so instrumental in prompting me to go into the role I’m in now. Some of my closest friends today in D.C. actually came from my WeLead class so I cannot encourage you strongly enough to build good relationships with folks in the room and to make an effort to get to know people. And that’s friends on both sides of the aisle for me. In my current work at the local level in D.C. politics, the value of folks being on the Hill or in other spheres of government has been particularly meaningful to me.”
After college, Kelly took an unpaid internship in Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office and was hired after four months to be his upstate deputy press secretary, where she learned on-the-job. Ultimately, she became his press secretary in New York City, a very demanding media market. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016, Kelly helped Democrats secure a net gain in Congress, and flipped the House to a majority-Democrat institution in 2018. In January 2019, Kelly joined the Kirsten Gillibrand Presidential campaign as Communications Director. Kelly said, “I couldn’t be prouder of what we did. We drove the conversation on key issues like reproductive rights, paid family leave, and did move the entire presidential field. I’m glad I worked for a powerful, smart woman.”
Pamela Stevens also started in a volunteer role, on the Reagan/Bush campaign. She started by answering phones while waiting for an interview at the White House, and was hired that same day as a troop coordinator for Reagan. Stevens stressed being as generous as you can, being kind, being respectful, and leaving a situation better than you found it. “Loyalty is everything,” she added. Stevens has spent more than two decades working in television and other traditional media, and was recently appointed as the Director of Specialty Media for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.
Later in the day, Represent co-author Kate Black shared real-world examples from the book about how women decide and start to run for office. There was plenty of Q&A to discuss policy platforms, fundraising, messaging, and time management. The self-reflection exercises in the book related directly to the work done in the afternoon with a professional development coach on constructing a personal brand or declaration that is unique, honest, and memorable.
Over the course of the day, the young women in WeLead were inspired and encouraged to run for office, run a campaign or run a communications team. “You are qualified (to run) today. Your experience is your expertise,” Black told the room. Kelly added, “You don’t get anything in D.C. that you don’t ask for.”
In collaboration with the Women in Public Service Project, WPI hosted a discussion on the intersection of women, politics, and the world of new media. Lucia Di Meco, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, presented findings from her forthcoming paper on female politicians and how they use social media as a tool for leveraging political gains. In her talk, Di Meco highlighted the “double-edged sword” the world of social media can be for women in politics. While there are the “trolls” who bombard women’s online platforms, she also finds that women politicians are able to use social media to drive actual policy change, compared to their male counterparts.
Following Di Meco’s paper presentation, the panelists, Christine Matthews, President, Bellwether Research and Consulting; Crystal Patterson, Global Civics Partnership Manager, Facebook; Jenna Golden, President, Golden Strategies, Former Head of Political Sales at Twitter; and Rebecca Schuller, Executive Director, Winning for Women, discussed how the women running for president in the upcoming election might benefit from using social media and the authenticity social media brings to constituents. "Hearing the message straight from you is the most important currency women have as candidates" says Patterson about the importance of using social media in a campaign. The panel was moderated by WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin.
The Women & Politics Institute hosted a forum to discuss, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics,” a book that details the careers and friendships of four powerful African American women in the political world. Co-authors and renowned political strategists Donna Brazile, Minyon Moore, and Yolanda Caraway joined WPI Executive Director and moderator Betsy Fischer Martin as they explored the importance of urging women to run for public office, and examining the value of women surrounding themselves with other strong, like-minded women.
Central to their discussion, the panelists touched on the significance of adequate political representation, noting that the nation still has a long way to go until such a feat is achieved. Brazile - who frequently spoke of the need to elect more women to office - finalized her thoughts by imploring females in the audience to consider the onerous task of mounting a campaign. “Why you? Because there’s no one better. Why now? Because tomorrow’s not soon enough,” Brazile said passionately.
View event photos here, full story here, and watch the video here.
The Women & Politics Institute and the School of Communication Journalism Division hosted an empowering book talk with co-authors and educators Kristin Grady Gilger and Julia Wallace. Their book, There’s No Crying In Newsrooms, captures the essence of what it’s like to navigate the world of journalism as a woman—from sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement to suppressing emotions and crying in bathrooms, the authors discussed the hardships of maneuvering through womanhood in a profession conventionally dominated by men.
Joined by Lisa Matthews of the Associated Press and Cory Haik of VICE, the panelists shared their unique stories of climbing to the top of their fields, underscoring the extent to which double-standards and hypocrisy often plague and disillusion female journalists at every juncture in their careers. As Betsy Fischer Martin moderated the talk, the women offered advice for aspiring young professionals who seek to subvert gender norms in the office.
When asked how she makes important decisions at the managerial level without appearing “bossy” to her subordinates, Matthews said, “I just do it with a smile.”
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
WPI, along with AUSG Women’s Initiative, the Kennedy Political Union, Black Girls Vote, Sister Sister AU, and the NAACP, co-hosted an event featuring U.S. Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (D-NC). Adams, a longtime educator at Bennett College, a historic black women’s college in Greensboro, North Carolina, described how she made it from the Greensboro School Board to the U.S. House of Representatives. Representative Adams has been working with WeLead Alumna and U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood to co-sponsor the Black Maternal Health Caucus, stating that mothers in the United States are more likely to die during childbirth than mothers in any other developed nation. The cumulative stress of racism and sexism makes black women twice as likely to experience complications during childbirth as white women.
Adams detailed the five pillars the Black Maternal Health Caucus attempts to address, which includes increasing access to critical services, improving the quality of care, addressing maternal and infant mortality, enhancing support for families both before and after birth, and improving data collection and oversight. When asked what advice she has for young students thinking about getting into politics, Adams makes the distinction that “there is a difference between being concerned and being committed.”
WPI launched the 2019-20 WeLead program year with a dynamic, authentic and inspirational talk from D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (SPA/MPP '06). Nadeau spoke about the ever-important issues of housing and education for her Ward 1 constituents, but also about how, in general, it’s important to listen, dive into issues, and “leave things better than you found them.” In keeping with the mission of the program to close the gender gap in political leadership, Nadeau encouraged the 40 women to “please run”. This theme was echoed in the afternoon panel of WeLead alumnae who are making a difference and setting the agenda at advocacy groups, non-profits and on the Hill.
The afternoon panelists included: Katie Smith, Federal Lobbyist at AFSCME; Anne Hedgepeth, Director of Federal Policy at AAUW; and Caren Street, newly-named Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus. The panel discussed topics as varied as networking, imposter syndrome, work-life balance and executive presence. Not surprising with this group, policy and politics also came up – a conversation that continued at a social reception immediately following the session.
To view more photos, click here.
While the audience of students, faculty, and community members enjoyed lunch, Nicole Fossier, Associate at the Benenson Strategy Group presented key takeaways from a recent poll of likely 2020 voters that GOTB commissioned to find explore attitudes on electability and gender as it relates to the presidential election. After presenting the top-line findings from the poll, Fossier joined Amanda Hunter, Research and Communications Director at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, and Li Zhou, Politics and Policy Reporter at Vox, in a panel discussion about what the electability discussion means for the women running for president. The panel was moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin. Read more about the event here, view more photos here, and catch the livestream here.
Co-hosted with Women In Film & Video, WPI screened excerpts from One Woman One Vote, an award-winning documentary that captures the plight and history of the women’s suffrage movement. Additionally, audience members watched an exclusive trailer of the upcoming film Resisterhood, which documents the female-driven Resistance movement that has made waves nationwide since 2017.
Following the screenings, WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer-Martin moderated a panel and Q&A session with three prominent women involved in the filmmaking process: Ruth Pollak, the writer and producer of One Woman One Vote, Cheryl Jacobs Crim, filmmaker of Resisterhood, and Mimi Hassanein, a political candidate featured in Resisterhood.
Recognizing the vast amounts of progress that women have made in a considerably short of time, Crim noted, “We’ve come a long way, and yet we have so much further to go.”
To view more photos from the event, click here.
Together with the law and government department of AU's Washington College of Law, friends of WPI joined current students and alums for an evening of networking at the Rayburn House Office Building.
American University hosted a Fulbright Student Enrichment Seminar on Women’s Economic Empowerment, Challenges and Opportunities.
On Thursday, May 16, WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin moderated a panel discussion following a screening of Hingakawa: Forgiveness Is a Choice (Starbucks Productions), a new documentary that tells the story of two women who became friends after being on opposite sides of the Rwandan genocide.
Panelists included Zulima Espinel, Vice President for Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at Starbucks, Julie Vogtman, Director of Job Quality and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, and Curt Reintsma, Food Security Partnerships Specialist at USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.
On Friday, May 17, Fischer Martin moderated a roundtable discussion on grassroots and civil society efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment. Participating in the discussion were Rachel Pearson, founder of Engage, a bipartisan women’s initiative focused on issues surround economic security, Sharyn Tejani, Director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and Deborah Vagins, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Research at the American Association of University Women. The panelists discussed how local organizations can empower women and advance women’s rights on multiple fronts.
Following the discussion, Fischer Martin also participated in a roundtable debrief along with Dr. Jeff Hayes (Program Director, Job Quality and Income Security, Institute for Women’s Policy Research) and Dr. Kelly Jones (Assistant Professor, American University). The discussion was moderated by Elyse Shaw (Study Director, Institute for Women’s Policy Research).
At a lunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated the ten students who received the Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate this year. WPI also honored three 2018-2019 Alice Paul Award Winners:
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (Alumna Recipient)
Cindy Buffart (Graduate Recipient)
Jacqueline Pelella (Undergraduate Recipient)
Shilpa Phadke (Faculty Recipient)
Congratulations to all!
To view more photos, click here.
After a year of hard work and dedication, WPI was pleased to graduate 28 members of the 2018-19 WeLead class on May 8th in the D.C. offices of MacAndrews & Forbes. Graduates and their guests were welcomed by WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin, American University School of Public Affairs Dean Vicky Wilkins, and MacAndrews & Forbes Senior Vice President and AU Alumna Elise Aronson. All three women encouraged the graduates to aim high and support each other.
WPI was proud to present WeLead alumna, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL) with our annual Alice Paul Award. In special remarks to graduates, Congresswoman Underwood, who graduated from the program in 2012, shared her story about why and when she decided to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, ultimately defeating a four term incumbent and becoming the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress. Underwood stressed that it wasn't 'easy' or 'convenient' to run for office, but that it was important to provide a voice on the issues she cared most about. She credits campaign training programs, like WeLead, with helping prepare young women with the skills and confidence that it takes to campaign for elected office at any level.
Underwood shared with the young women who currently work in federal agencies, Congress, non-profits and advocacy groups, that some of the first calls she made when she decided to run were to her former WeLead classmates. Several of them came out to campaign for her in Illinois, even though it wasn't convenient, because it was important. Representative Underwood congratulated and took a picture with each graduate during the ceremony, which was followed by a celebratory reception, generously co-sponsored by MacAndrews & Forbes.
Great advice and perspective from two young, successful, female campaign managers and strategists who shared personal and professional stories about campaign life at an AU Kennedy Political Union event. Anne Caprara, Chief of Staff for Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, said "You can't be ambivalent about campaign politics. This has to be in your bones." Caprara is an AU and WPI alumna. Echoing a similar theme, Kristin Davison, VP and General Consultant at Axiom Strategies, said, "You have to acknowledge on the front end that you're going to have to sacrifice stuff. You need to love it!" The panel was moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin.
Dynamic, successful, young female Campaign Managers entertained and educated WeLead participants on April 13 in the sixth of six sessions for the 2018-2019 program year. Betsy Fischer Martin moderated the panel which included Kristin Davison, General Consultant at Axiom Strategies, Anne Caprara, Chief of Staff for Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and Keenan Austin Reed, Chief of Staff for Virginia Congressman Donald McEachin.
Campaign managers hire/fire staff, control the budget, and are the "truth-tellers" to the candidate. As such, the panelists agreed that campaign management is an influential and rewarding career with unlimited opportunities for advancement. In the afternoon, WeLead alumna Rachael Estes shared strategies for successful salary negotiations, including doing research about industry standards, practicing, and knowing your own non-negotiable bottom-line before negotiations begin. Estes cited a statistic that only 9% of women negotiate their first salaries out of college, compared to 57% of men, leaving up to $1 million on the table over the course of their careers. Estes, Manager of Government & Regulatory Affairs at Apex Clean Energy, also stressed the importance of regularly-scheduled performance reviews as a good opportunity to discuss pay increases, title promotions and other employee benefits.
More than 60 people joined WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin on April 10th to hear New York Times best-selling author Evan Thomas and his wife Oscie discuss their new book, First, about the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The Thomases shared many anecdotes from interviewing more than 350 people about O'Connor, who was a ranch-raised, Stanford-educated, extremely practical woman, in her own life as well as on the bench.
Evan Thomas said O'Connor was frequently a "girl in a man's world", including raising three boys, but had enough education and good sense to navigate that successfully. Fischer Martin asked about the idea that O'Connor was also the "fifth" as a swing vote on the Supreme Court when it came to her priority issues of affirmative action, reproductive rights and freedom of religion. Both Thomases agreed that O'Connor would not like that description or attention, but rather preferred to put her head down and do the work.
Oscie Thomas discussed at length the relationship between O'Connor and the second female Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She said their relationship was both competitive and support. Apparently Justice Clarence Thomas called O'Connor the "glue" of the jurists. Pick up a copy of First to learn more about O'Connor's ground-breaking role on the Court.
Co-authors, Jenna Brayton, Elle Celeste, Nita Contreras, Molly Dillon, Andrea Flores, and Taylor Lustig, joined WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin for a discussion on their new book, Yes She Can. They spoke to the audience about their personal experiences in the White House that shaped who they are today. The authors shared their wisdom about how to make the most out of your career at a young age and what they would tell their younger selves. The book is currently a New York Times Bestseller.
Read more about the event here.
The Center for Israeli Studies and WPI hosted a panel discussion on the current state of women and politics in Israel. Panelists included former member of the Israeli legislature Knesset, Einet Wilf, and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-7). Wilf spoke about how women in Israel engage in the public forum, and Spanberger discussed how women are changing the landscape of politics in both the United States and Israel. The event was moderated by Tamara Wittes, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, and a reception followed the evening’s remarks.
At the March session of our WeLead training program, professional coach Lisa Montenegro talked to participants about ways to make an interview successful, and about traps to avoid. One tip is to review your job chronology in detail and be prepared to cite specific experiences that have shaped your current strengths and areas for growth. Another tip is to listen closely to the questions to determine how your skills and knowledge can address an interviewer’s ‘pain point.’
The next session focused on candidate recruitment from advocacy groups and committees. Jess O'Connell spoke about recruiting progressive, mostly female, candidates in her work at EMILY’s List and currently as a Partner at NEWCO Strategies, while Neri Martinez discussed how the Republican State Leadership Committee and other committees find and fund candidates for races in counties and municipalities all the way up to federal office. Martinez noted that most committee work is in open seats without intense primaries.
The session ended with an introduction of a relatively new campaign tool - direct voter contact via texting. WeLead alumna Zandria Haines of Hustle shared how her company is helping first-time and veteran candidates use texting for events, message testing, get-out-the-vote efforts, direct mail follow-up, and other strategies. Haines demonstrated the ease of the technology with a custom event invitation to everyone in the room that took less than 5 minutes to execute.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Women & Politics Institute partnered with the School of Public Affairs, School of International Service, Kennedy Political Union, Delta Phi Epsilon, and American University's International Relations Society to host a panel discussion of women ambassadors to the United States. Members of the AU community and the public filled the recital hall at Katzen Arts Center, eager to hear about the status of women in politics in countries around the world. Panelists included Floreta Faber of Albania, Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo, Kirsti Kauppi of Finland, Claudia Ivette Canjura de Contento of El Salvador, Karin Olofsdotter of Sweden, and Rosemary Banks of New Zealand. WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin moderated. The ambassadors discussed women’s political representation in their own countries and shared how they celebrate International Women’s Day. They also touched on how the female ambassadors to the US support each other, revealing that they have a WhatsApp group called “Woman Power.” The consensus: women have made great progress in their respective countries, but there is a still a long way to go to full equality.
Read more about the event here.
At the fourth session of WeLead2019, participants learned how to run a successful political campaign, be it local or presidential, as the candidate or consultant. The day's dynamic speakers covered networking, field operations, advertising, polling and speechwriting. They inspired the women to explore and discover who they trust, what they care about, when to run, where to get started, and how they can make a difference in their communities. Several common themes emerged across the
The Doyle Forman Theater was packed with students and community members eager to watch On the Basis of Sex, the new film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early years as a lawyer. The film illustrated some of the formative cases that Ginsburg tackled, altering the precedent around gender and the law. It also depicted the love story between Ginsburg and her husband, Martin, and how they worked together to change history. After the film, Betsy Fischer Martin moderated a discussion with Vicky Wilkins, Dean, School of Public Affairs, and Beth Frank, Adjunct Associate Professor of Law, Washington College of Law, about their reactions to the film and how they think society has evolved since the crucial sex discrimination cases Ginsburg argued when she was a young lawyer. Audience members questioned the panelists about their interpretation of changes in the legal system since the late 1970s. While they acknowledged there is still a long way to go, panelists were largely optimistic, sharing how they have seen discriminatory laws slowly phased out of legal system in their lifetimes.
WPI was pleased to present the findings of our 2018 poll on women midterm voters, called She Votes/She Leads, to AU students and faculty. The survey, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, surveyed 1200 midterm voters about women's political leadership and what mattered most to them at the ballot box. Senior vice president of BSG Katie Connolly presented the results and Betsy Fischer Martin moderated a conversation with Katie and the Jonathan N. Helfat Distinguished Professor of Political Science and WPI founder, Dr. Karen O’Connor.
The panel highlighted key findings, including women voters’ dislike of President Trump’s tone and the optimism that women voters feel about the ability of the newly elected women representatives to make progress on issues that matter to the electorate. Students asked the panelists questions and discussed the implications for the political landscape in 2020.
See the report here.
The Women & Politics Institute partnered with the Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) to create a survey that explores how and why women voted the way they did during the 2018 midterm elections. On Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, WPI executive director Betsy Fischer Martin and senior vice president of BSG Katie Connolly broke down the implications of the survey results in a discussion at the National Press Club. Some of the key findings that the panelists highlighted looks at how troubled women voters are at President Trump’s tone, the optimism that women voters feel about the newly elected women representatives to make progress on issues that matter to the electorate, and reinforces that women are not one singular voting bloc. Additionally, women of color and millennial women are especially astute to the gender discrimination that women running for office face. You can find a full report of the findings here and the survey questions and responses here.
At Saturday's session, the WeLead Class of 2018-2019 continued their work with professional coach Lisa Montenegro, learning about successful mentorship. Lisa led a group discussion on what mentors and mentees should expect, and how to establish objectives for a mentor/mentee relationship. There were also two panel discussions. Morning panelists included Atima Omara of Omara Strategies Group, LLC and Cherisse Eatmon of Millennial Action Project (MAP), who spoke about the importance of grassroots organizing. In the afternoon, Amanda Fuchs Miller of Seventh Street Strategies and Jennifer Bell of Chamber Hill Strategies discussed the role of lobbying in politics. Both panels were moderated by Julia Salvatore of WPI.
Students and faculty packed a room to enjoy lunch and listen to a panel discussion about the results of the 2018 midterm election. Panelists included Dr. David Barker of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, Amna Nawaz of PBS Newshour, Dr. Jan Leighley of the School of Public Affairs, and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times. The discussion was moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin, Executive Director of WPI. The panelists discussed what to expect in a post-election landscape. Speaking about the new Congress, Amna Nawaz said, "Now it's about how they are going to legislate. That's where the rubber meets the road."
SPA Dean Vicky Wilkins hosted a welcome reception for WPI's new Executive Director, Betsy Fischer Martin. Many friends and supporters of WPI gathered to celebrate Fischer Martin's new position.
The WeLead Class of 2018-2019 worked with professional coach, Lisa Montenegro, to learn about creating their personal brand, crafting a biography for every occasion and polishing resumes. The afternoon panelists included, Rhonda Foxx, Office of Representative Alma Adams; Jordan Colvin, Jesse Colvin for Congress; Alexandra Raposo, EMILY’s List; and Betsy Fischer Martin (moderator), who spoke on approaches to fundraising on approaches to fundraising. The day concluded with Megan Sowards Newton’s presentation on ‘Legal, Reporting, and Compliance Issues of Fundraising for Campaigns.’
WPI co-sponsored a discussion with leading political and government experts on the dynamics and repercussions of the 2018 elections. Panelists included David Barker, professor and director of the Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies; electoral politics expert Elaine Kamarck, senior fellow in the governance studies and the founding director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management; and political strategist Sara Fagen, a partner at DDC and former White House Political Director for President George W. Bush. The event was moderated by political scientist, professor, and director of the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, John Haskell. Watch the discussion here.
WPI was proud to co-sponsor a special screening of the acclaimed 2018 documentary, RBG. RBG, directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, explores the exceptional life and legendary career of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The event included a pre-screening reception and post-screening discussion with panelists Robert Barnes, Supreme Court Washington Post Reporter, and Julie Cohen, RBG co-director; moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin, WPI. The panel took questions from the audience.
Our new WeLead Class of 18-19 gathered for their first session and spent the day learning about Communications and Messaging. They later mingled with WeLead alumni.
Friends of WPI gathered to celebrate another successful year at the Women & Politics Institute and say goodbye to our Director, Jennifer Lawless, as she heads to the UVA!
The Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2017-2018 Alice Paul Award Winners: Jennifer Palmieri (Alumna Recipient), Amanda Fuchs Miller (Faculty Recipient), Rachel Kershaw (Graduate Student Recipient) and Mary-Margaret Koch(Undergraduate Student Recipient).
Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox hosted a unique speed-learning event, celebrating the release of their new textbook. Guests spoke with several experts on topics ranging from women's under-representation in legislatures to a woman's right to choose. Special guests included Jennifer Palmieri and others!
The Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2016-2017 Alice Paul Award Winners: Betsy Fischer Martin (Alumna Recipient), Liza Morris (Staff Recipient), Eliza Frost (Graduate Student Recipient) and Hannah Tennies (Undergraduate Student Recipient).
The Women & Politics Institute and KPU hosted a Women's History Month event featuring a book discussion of Women on the Run with authors Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes, moderated by Candy Crowley.
The Women & Politics Institute and the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies co-sponsored a pre-election panel discussion on the upcoming 2016 presidential election. The panelists included Jim Hobart, Anna Greenberg, and Hans Noel. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Lawless.
Incoming freshmen interested in careers in politics met with women shaping policy in DC, Congress, and the Executive Branch. Among many activities, students networked with women on Capitol Hill and with representatives from Women in Government Relations.
See photos of the event here.
Authors Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes signed and sold copies of their new book, Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era at Athleta in Georgetown. The evening included prizes, refreshments, contests, and giveaways.
CNN's Nia Malika-Henderson moderated a discussion about Jennifer Lawless and Danny Hayes' new book, Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era. The co-authors discussed the reasons why women may not run for office, and how to close the gender gap in political leadership.
Watch the recorded discussion here.
In a combined dinner event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's eight Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and thirty WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2015-2016 Alice Paul Award Winners: Laura Cox Kaplan (Alum Recipient), Jane Palmer (Faculty Recipient), Kayla Williams (Staff Recipient), Amanda Sweet (Graduate Student Recipient) and Cassandra Fowler (Undergraduate Student Recipient).
A number of political experts assembled on Tuesday to discuss and provide insight on the 2016 election and its candidates. The panelists at the event included Jennifer Lawless, Glen Bolger, Anna Greenberg, Allan Lichtman, and David Wasserman. The discussion was moderated by James Thurber.
NBC's Ronan Farrow moderated a discussion about Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox's book, Running From Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics. Jen and Richard were joined by Congresswomen Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The panelists discussed ways to re-engage young people in politics and how changes to the system must come from both inside and outside of government.
See photos of the event here.
Incoming freshmen interested in careers in politics met with women shaping policy in DC, Congress, and the Executive Branch. Special guests included DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Miss DC.
See photos of the event here.
CNN's John King moderated a discussion about Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox's new book, Running From Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics. The co-authors discussed the growing alienation of young people from politics and what we should do to chart a new course.
See photos of the discussion here.
In a combined brunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's fourteen Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and thirty-one WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2014-2015 Alice Paul Award Winners: Congresswoman Gwen Graham (Alumna Recipient), Jessica Waters (Faculty Recipient), Paula Warrick (Staff Recipient), Samantha Guthrie (Graduate Student Recipient) and Cassondra Jo Murphy (Undergraduate Student Recipient). See photos of the festivities here.
Despite the cold weather, WPI's 4th Annual 5K Race to Representation was a success! We had more than 500 registered runners, 30 sponsors, and 30 volunteers participat to support our efforts to close the gender gap in political leadership. Jennifer Lawless offered opening remarks and was among those who finished the race, along with several Institute staffers, students, and faculty members. Click here to see all the selected photos.
CCPS, WPI, and the Kay Spiritual Life Center co-sponsored a post-election panel discussion. Moderated by James A. Thurber, the panel analyzed the 2014 midterm election results. The panel speakers were Anna Greenberg, Jennifer Lawless, Candice Nelson, and Molly O'Rourke.
WPI and CCPS co-sponsored a pre-election panel discussion. The panel discussed the upcoming midterm elections and provided predictions on who would win and lose. On the panel were Glen Bolger, Margie Omero, and John Sides.
See photos of the discussion here.
WPI hosted guests at the Rayburn Office Building for the 2014-2015 WeLead Kick-Off reception. WPI Director Jen Lawless offered introductory remarks to welcome the 2014-2015 WeLead participants.
We were also joined by Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) and former Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly (CT-01) who all shared some personal anecdotes. Furthermore, Leaders of key DC women's organizations, Capitol Hill staffers, and many friends of WPI also joined us at the reception as well.
In a combined brunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's eleven Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and twenty-five WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2013-2014 Alice Paul Award Winners: Muriel Bowser (AlumNA Recipient), Lucy Gettman (Faculty Recipient), Diane Hsiung (Staff Recipient), Morgan Walton (Graduate Student Recipient) and Jacqlene Moran (Undergraduate Student Recipient). See photos of the festivities here.
Despite the rainy weather, WPI’s 3rd Annual 5K Race to Representation was a success! We had more than 400 registered runners, 27 sponsors, and 30 volunteers participat to support our efforts to close the gender gap in political leadership.
Jennifer Lawless offered opening remarks and was among those who finished the race, along with several Institute staffers, students, and faculty members. Click here to see all the race photos.
WPI and CCPS co-sponsored a women's history month panel discussion. The panel discussed partisanship and polarization in the US Congress, and whether more women can help solve these problems. On the panel were Mickey Edwards, Nancy Johnson, and Barbara Kennelly, all of whom served in the US House of Representatives with Newt Gingrich. Sean Theriault also signed copies of his new book, The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress. See photos of the discussion here.
WPI hosted guests at the Rayburn Office Building for the 2013-2014 WeLead Kick-Off reception. WPI Director Jennifer Lawless offered introductory remarks to welcome the 2013-2014 WeLead participants.
We were also joined by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), and Cheri Bustos (IL-17) who all shared some personal anecdotes. Leaders of key DC women's organizations, Capitol Hill staffers, and many friends of WPI also joined us at the reception.
Phi Sigma Sigma welcomed over 300 guests for a screening of Miss Representation. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film highlights the manner in which the mainstream media contribute to women’s under-representation in positions of power and influence in America. Jennifer Lawless participated in the panel discussion immediately following the screening.
Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox invited the AU community and public to join them for a discussion on their new report: Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young Americans' Political Ambition. Before the program, the participants enjoyed cocktails and food. The event was a success, as Jennifer and Richard presented their results and also answered various questions from the audience. To see photos of the event, click here.
In a combined brunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's six Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and twenty-nine WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2012-2013 Alice Paul Award Winners: Ann Timmons (Faculty Recipient), Anita McBride (Alumna Recipient), Sarah Glassman (Staff Recipient), Jane Palmer (Graduate Student Recipient) and Emily Yu (Undergraduate Student Recipient). See photos of the festivities here.
Over 300 people attended the Women & Politics Institute’s 2nd Annual 5K Race to Representation. Those that participated ran to support the institute’s efforts to close the gender gap in political leadership. Jennifer Lawless offered opening remarks and was among those who finished the race, along with several Institute staffers, students, and faculty members. Click here to see all the race photos.
Women & Politics Institute welcomed the new WeLead Class of 2012-2013. At this kick-off brunch, WPI Director Jennifer Lawless offered introductory remarks to welcome the WeLead participants. In addition, the participants met and mingled with WeLead Alumni from the Class of 2011-2012. All in all, WPI was proud to once again host this kick-off event for our new WeLead participants and WeLead Alumni.
WPI and AU Democrats co-sponsored a Women in Politics Panel. The panel examined why it is so important to have more women in government the potential for increased representation of women in the upcoming election.
Speakers: Amy Dacey, Executive Director of EMILY’s List: AU Professor, Jennifer Lawless: Executive Director of Running Start and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, Jessica Grounds, and Clare Bresnahan, Programs Director of the Women’s Campaign Fund.
WPI, National Archives William G. McGowan Theater, and National Capital Parks-East, National Park Service hosted a panel that discussed how women gain access to power to make change.
Speakers: Dr. Joy Kinard, Central District Manager, National Capital Parks-East - Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS; Jennifer Krafchik, Assistant Director and Director of Collections, Sewall-Belmont House & Museum; and Dr. Jennifer Lawless, Director, Women & Politics Institute, American University.
In a combined brunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's nine Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and thirty-seven WeLead Program graduates. The event also honored the 2011-2012 Alice Paul Award Winners: Elizabeth Sherman (Faculty Recipient), Jan Du Plain (Alumna Recipient), Leah Gates (Graduate Student Recipient) and Kathleen McKenna (Undergraduate Student Recipient). See photos of the festivities here.
Jennifer Lawless signed copies of her new book, Becoming a Candidate, as guests enjoyed refreshments and musical hits from 1992 with DJ Dave. Following the signing, WPI and CCPS honored 15 women who ran for congressional office in 1992: Elaine Baxter, Paula DiPerna, Michele Dyson, Sylvia R. Garcia, Charlene Haar, Josie Heath, Stephanie Johnson, Jean Lloyd-Jones, Connie A. Morella, Anna Nevenic, Pam Roach, Claire Sargent, Susan B. Stokes, Mable Thomas, and Ellen E. Wedum all offered brief remarks on why they decided to run for office in 1992. See more photos from the event here.
The Alliance for Women in Media and WPI welcomed 200 guests for a screening of Miss Representation. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film highlights the manner in which the mainstream media contribute to women’s under-representation in positions of power and influence in America. The event began with a well-attended reception in the Katzen Arts Center. Jennifer Lawless and Erin Fuller offered remarks before the start of the film.
Nearly 500 people attended the Women & Politics Institute’s inaugural 5K Race to Representation, an event that sought to draw attention to the dearth of women in politics and highlight the Institute’s efforts to close the gender gap in political leadership. The race provided a fun opportunity for both the AU and DC communities to hear about gender disparities in politics and to work to increase women’s presence in the political sphere. Jennifer Lawless offered opening remarks and was among those who finished the race, along with several Institute staffers, students, and faculty members. Check out all the photos from the race here.
More than 150 guests gathered at the Rayburn Office Building for the 2011-2012 WeLEAD kick-off. WPI Director Jen Lawless offered introductory remarks to welcome the WeLEAD participants and Congresswomen Donna Edwards (MD-04) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). Both shared some personal anecdotes and advice to those in attendance on how to succeed as a woman in politics. The Women & Politics Institute was proud to once again host this Kick-Off event attended by leaders of key DC women's organizations, WeLEAD participants, Capitol Hill staffers, and many friends of WPI. See more photos from the event here.
In a combined brunch event, the Women & Politics Institute celebrated this year's thirteen Women, Policy, and Political Leadership Certificate recipients and thirty-six WeLEAD Program graduates. The event also honored the 2010-2011 Alice Paul Award Winners: Connie Morella (Faculty Recipient), Erin Fuller (Alumni Recipient), Christy Anthony (Staff Recipient), Gail Baitinger (Graduate Student Recipient) and Kathryn Baxter (Undergraduate Student Recipient). See photos of the festivities here.
Cindy Simon Rosenthal signed copies of her new book, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics (co-authored with Ron M. Peters, Jr.) as guests enjoyed refreshments and entertainment from Zeebop. Following the signing, a panel moderated by Cindy Simon Rosenthal with former congresswomen Elizabeth Holtzman (member 1973-1981) and Connie Morella (member 1987-2003) discussed whether the more things change, the more they stay the same. Jennifer Lawless offered introductory remarks. Take a look at more pictures from the event.
Gloria Feldt signed copies of her new book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, as guests enjoyed light refreshments. Following the signing, a panel with Gloria Feldt, Amanda Hess, Karen Finney and Congresswoman Terri Sewell discussed women, media, power, leadership, and Gloria's new book. The audience then asked panelists questions about their experiences navigating political leadership. See more photos from the panel discussion.
Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary to Bill Clinton, Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary to George W. Bush, and WPI Director Jennifer Lawless discussed the outcomes of the 2010 midterm elections before an audience of more than 150 guests. Shira Toeplitz, of Politico moderated the discussion. During a reception that followed, Lawless signed copies of her new book (co-authored with Richard L. Fox), It Still Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office followed by a reception. See more from the signing and event.
The Alliance for Women in Media and WPI welcomed five current and former female FCC Commissioners, Mimi Dawson, Susan Ness, Deborah Taylor Tate, Gloria Tristani, and Meredith Atwell Baker for a panel discussion moderated by Jennifer Lawless. The Commissioners answered questions related to diversity in the media and challenges faced by female candidates for nominated or elected positions. The event concluded with a reception held in the Katzen Arts Center Museum.
Border's Bookstore hosted a book signing for Women & Politics Institute Director Jennifer Lawless, and her new book, It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. The book reports the results of surveys and interviews with 4,000 women and men who are well situated to run for office. It ultimately demonstrates that many fundamental barriers continue to confront women in politics, making gender equality a remote prospect. View photos from the signing.
The Women & Politics Institute co-sponsored an event at which Gloria Steinem discussed feminism today, the struggles the women’s movement continues to face, and what the next generation of women’s activism will entail. A Q&A period with students followed. Co-sponsors included: the Kennedy Political Union, Women's Initiative, and AU College Democrats.
More than 150 guests gathered at the Rayburn Office Building for the 2010-2011 WeLEAD Kick-Off. WPI Director Jen Lawless offered introductory remarks to welcome the WeLEAD participants and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large) shared some personal anecdotes with members of Congress, leaders of key DC women's organizations, WeLEAD participants, Capitol Hill staffers, and many friends of WPI.
More than 170 guests from the DC community gathered at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to honor the work of women ambassadors and women in diplomacy. Jan DuPlain of DuPlain Enterprises, Inc. introduced Her Excellency Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States, to an audience that included several other ambassadors, diplomats, alumni, and friends of WPI. Jennifer Lawless, WPI Director, offered remarks on the mission of the Women & Politics Institute.
The Honorable Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, and Tina Tchen, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, spoke to an audience of more than 150 guests about the Obama Administration's efforts to advance women in the US and around the world. Anita McBride, executive-in-residence at American University and former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush, moderated the discussion.
Washington Post White House correspondent, Anne Kornblut, signed copies of her book Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win. After the signing, CNN's Jessica Yellin and MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell joined Kornblut for a panel discussion about women in the 2008 election. WPI Director Jennifer Lawless moderated and more than 150 guests attended. See more photos from the event here.
More than 100 guests welcomed WPI Director Jennifer Lawless to Washington, DC. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) introduced Lawless to an audience that included other members of Congress, leaders of key DC women’s organizations, Capitol Hill staffers, and friends of WPI.
Daily Beast columnist Meghan McCain spoke to a packed room in the Mary Graydon University Center at an event cosponsored by the Women & Politics Institute. WPI Director Jennifer Lawless introduced McCain, daughter of Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Many thanks to the Kennedy Political Union for including WPI in this exciting event!
The American University community showed up in force to welcome WPI’s new Director, Dr. Jennifer Lawless. President Neil Kerwin, Provost Scott Bass, SPA Dean William LeoGrande, and WPI Founder and Director Emerita Karen O’Connor offered remarks.
April 16, 2020
A record-breaking 110 women were elected to Congress in 2018, and while their policy influence is yet to be determined, their presence is already changing perceptions.
October 8, 2019
Top journalists and former leaders of the Republican and Democratic National Committees gave their impressions of the ever-changing political landscape heading into the 2020 presidential election.
September 19, 2019
The Women & Politics Institute and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation co-hosted a panel discussion on campus to shed light on what the much-discussed concept of "electability" actually means to voters in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.
May 8, 2019
The Women & Politics Institute was pleased to graduate 28 members of the 2018-19 WeLead class on May 8th in the DC offices of MacAndrews & Forbes. WeLead alumna and newly-elected Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), shared her story about why and when she decided to run for office.
March 6, 2019
The all-star panel of female ambassadors to the U.S. discussed women’s political representation in their own countries and shared how they celebrate International Women’s Day.