WGR Blog May

 

On April 11th WGR conducted its fourth annual Hill Day, giving WGR members an opportunity to represent themselves and their interests rather than their clients' for a day. I could sit here and make this blog just a list of the stats from this year; they are pretty impressive. WGR members visited 68 offices between the House and Senate, over 15 of those meetings Member-level. I could tell you all about the work our policy-focused task forces did to get those meetings, about the hundreds of emails and phone calls with Hill staffers across the public policy and political spectrum. I could just list off the names of the almost 70 WGR women who participated and the diverse array of companies, associations, and causes they represent, and you'd probably get a sense of the scope of our Hill Day 2018 efforts and outreach, but if you made it to the end of that lengthy list your eyes would probably glaze over in boredom. Instead, if you'll humor me, I'd like to share a few personal recollections from Hill Day and why it meant so much to me.


In my regular working life, I usually spend two or three days a week on the Hill, shepherding clients between meetings or conducting them myself, sitting through hearings or just sitting in the Chef working through my inbox hoping Committee staffers who owe me calls will happen by. Every day I make a point to look around and take stock of the men and women, and then more men, who populate my work environment. Many times a day I note that I'm the only woman in a meeting or on an elevator or at a table lunching with my almost entirely-male clients. When I make it back to my office the male-to-female make-up is the same lonely ratio.

This token female feeling was true on April 10th, 2018, and it was true again on April 12th, but on April 11th I got to feel what's it's like to be surrounded on all sides, in every room, on every elevator, and at every table by women. Sitting in Rayburn 2456 scrambling to react to the last minute changes that are inevitable when scheduling dozens of Hill visits, I looked around at one point and just paused and smiled. Mallika Vastare and I were rearranging participants and plugging Board Members into the schedule and Faith Walters was making sure everyone had materials, and a couple Task Force teams were mingling between meetings, and I had never been in a room with so many female advocates all working together for the same great cause. There wasn’t much time in the moment to sit and reflect because take it from me, orchestrating and executing Hill Day – especially as it grows year after year – is a feat in managing chaos, but it was enough to breathe it in and acknowledge it. That feeling has stayed with me.

Throughout Hill Day I had the privilege of sitting down with several Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. These are prominent women who have broken through a ceiling that is still solidly glass enough that women comprise less than 20% of federally-elected officials. They’re also women who disagree on a number of issues across a range of policy issues. But that day, in separate meetings, they presented a unified front. This year WGR is striking out into uncharted territory for our organization: developing position statements on subjects like pay equity, paid leave and creating safe working environments. Sharing our perspective on these topics with Democratic and Republican women in Congress struck a harmonious chord. It’s been a bittersweet year for many women in politics and in workplaces the world over, but walking away from those conversations offered me some hope.  

Later that evening, over drinks at Hill staple Bullfeathers, I was trying to convince myself that it was really over and we had really pulled it off. WGR members were swapping stories from the day and talking excitedly about which meetings had been the most promising. Again I looked around and reveled in how many women we’d managed to gather in one room on Capitol Hill. How many fundraisers and events have I gone to at Bullfeathers in the past, to be mostly surrounded by men? How many times have I specifically sought out the few women present at those very events? And now look at this bar. Perhaps that sentiment was lubricated by the well-earned pinot grigio in my hand, but it really put into perspective the reason we had worked so hard for months to make Hill Day happen; the reason any of us work so hard for our WGR Committees or Task Forces; the reason the organization is important. Reporting the Hill Day stats out to the WGR Board felt like a great, tangible accomplishment, but those moments of female clarity and camaraderie were what really made the day special.