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A few years ago, I attended an all-day strategy session to discuss an emerging transportation issue. It was just as you’d imagine a meeting in Washington, DC -- a large, impressive room, a massive conference table, and, sitting around that table, a lot of people in dark suits. In a room of 40 transportation, political, tax, and legal experts, I was one of two women. Two! I wish I could say that this was the first time I had found myself as the only, or one of a handful of women, at a policy meeting, but this situation has been the rule in my twenty-plus years in politics, not the exception.

I walked out of that meeting thinking, “something has got to change. What can I do to change things?”

Over the next few months, I started paying more attention, counting the number of op-eds written by women, the number of women who appeared on political talk shows as experts, who headed up powerful trade associations, who testified before Congress, who led and staffed think tanks. When added up, the numbers were disappointing.

Electing more women to office is an important goal, but elected officials don’t work in a vacuum. They are advised by policy experts, be they independent, think tanks, or work for a trade association. Policy expertise has value, is respected, and is a pipeline to advancement. I know this because, throughout my career, I’ve worked with policy experts, highlighting their expertise, elevating their insights, and inserting their voices into developing narratives to help shape policy, regulations, and laws.

It became clear to me -- to get more women sitting at the strategy table, we need more women engaged in policy.

The Women’s Influence Institute endeavors to do just that; to engage women policy experts, to empower them with the resources they need to participate in policy and political debates, and to provide platforms for their voices so that they, and all women, have a greater influence on policy and politics.

Pursuing a new idea, changing perceptions, and starting a new organization isn’t easy, but giving women a greater voice in politics and policy is important and worth the effort. I hope you will join me and the women who make up the Women’s Influence Institute as we work toward achieving our mission.

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