Heard on the Hill

The Sisterhood of the Capitol Hill Staffers

Women’s Congressional Staff Association wants more women in higher positions

Eliza Ramirez, from the office of Massachusetts Rep. Michael E. Capuano, is president of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Whether you want to call it a sorority, a community or just another congressional staff association, the Women’s Congressional Staff Association works to improve the careers of women on Capitol Hill.

 

The organization, commonly known as WCSA, was founded eight years ago and it’s now become “a total labor of love,” for Camilla Vogt, the group’s community service co-chairwoman.

“We are an organization by women, for women, sort of in this pursuit of creating our best professional selves and supporting one another in the process,” Vogt said. “Absolutely being bipartisan is important but this almost becomes an apolitical space because, in a lot of ways, supporting women isn’t about if you’re a Republican or Democrat.”

Vogt, 25, is a legislative assistant for Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis.

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Eliza Ramirez, the association’s president, said the board’s “sisterhood” is what they’re trying to replicate on the Hill.

“We do mean it when we say we want to carve out a space for women to know, here are the resources … and you do belong here,” said Ramirez, 27, a legislative assistant for Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Michael E. Capuano. She was elected in September to her yearlong, single-term presidency.

Elizabeth-Burton Jones, 27, the WCSA’s professional development co-chairwoman, described it similarly.

“It’s like a sisterhood, it’s a community, we’re all friends, looking up to each other and really watching each other grow,” said Jones, the communications director/press secretary for retiring Virginia GOP Rep. Scott Rigell.

The WCSA holds events such as résumé-writing and post-election job search workshops, a bimonthly dinner, and panels on how to navigate the Hill.

Treasurer Lisa Langenderfer, 31, said the association offers its official programs for those who may not have anyone to lean on. 

“But also the networking that you can just reach out and say, ‘Hey, what does this mean?’” Langenderfer added. She is legislative director for Ohio Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup.

The association’s vice president, Christina Mahoney, said there aren’t enough female staffers on the Hill in higher-up positions.

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“There are a lot of women on the Hill but … there are much fewer LDs or deputy chiefs or communications directors or chiefs of staffers or committee directors,” she said. The 34-year-old is the legislative director for Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri.

“Anything we can do to help provide resources for women help all of the rest of us,” she added.

The WCSA has nearly 400 active members, made up of staffers from both chambers, interns and fellows, and 742 “friends of WCSA,” which includes men and people off the Hill.

The association’s congressional co-chairwomen are Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and California Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Lois Capps. (The latter two are retiring this month.)

The group tries to alternate between a Republican and a Democratic former or current member of Congress as keynote speaker at its annual summer conference, its biggest event.

“I have a photo of everyone in the audience and it really is what, one day, I hope Capitol Hill looks like,” Vogt said. “It was a really awesome, diverse crowd.”

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