Heard on the Hill

Women’s Congressional Staff Association Looks Back at 10 Years

WCSA is holding a conversation with members on sexual harassment to kick off 2018

Colleen Carlos, president of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association, is a legislative assistant for Rep. Robert A. Brady, D-Pa. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As the Women’s Congressional Staff Association passes the 10-year mark, it is emerging as a resource for sexual harassment issues.

It’s a “hallmark year” for the group, which was founded by four female staffers a decade ago, new president Colleen Carlos said. 

On Jan. 17, the group will hold an off-the-record conversation with Reps. Jackie Speier and Barbara Comstock about sexual harassment, encouraging staffers to ask questions on the issue that everyone on the Hill is trying to sort through.

Carlos, 25, is a legislative assistant for Rep. Robert A. Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and has worked for him since 2015. She started on the Hill as an intern for Rep. Mike Doyle in 2014. 

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Q: Why did you want to be president?

A: I’ve been involved with WCSA since 2015, and I happened to go to one of their power breakfasts. It was amazing, it was inspiring, and I just really enjoyed it. I thought it was a really well-run organization. Last term I was membership services director, and that propelled me into my leadership role. From my great experience serving on the board with so many fantastic women, I said, “Hey, I’d love to continue my leadership and run as president.”

Q: What are your goals for this year?

A: WCSA was founded in 2008 by a bipartisan group of four female staffers and, in my opinion, has grown into one of the strongest and well-recognized organizations on the Hill. I’m also fortunate to call one of our founders a mentor and a friend. So we compare notes and see how far WCSA has come and what we have left to do.

In 2018 we will continue to build upon our past successes from the summer leadership conference that we do every year. We have a mentorship program. We also have a diversity and inclusion initiative to ensure that women of all races, ethnicities and sexual orientations and political ideologies feel welcome in our organization.

Q: What are some of the ways WCSA is taking on sexual harassment on Capitol Hill in 2018?

A: Our board, along with other staff associations, sent a press release on sexual harassment [on Dec. 8]. … So many staff associations were able to come together and address this very serious issue in a timely manner. The universal support, I think, is symbolic of the Hill-wide conclusion that sexual harassment has absolutely no place here.

Not only is WCSA here for professional development and empowerment, but also for addressing these very serious topics and ensuring that our membership feels comfortable that they’re getting the resources that they need. Throughout the year, we will be doing other events to address sexual harassment due to the gravity of the issue.

Q: Did the women of the association want to work on combating sexual harassment immediately when it came to the forefront last year?

A: Absolutely, and I think our board was quick to make sure that we’re pushing content for our members that addresses this very serious issue.

WCSA by the numbers

  • 1,000+ total members.
  • 400+ dues-paying members, which includes interns, fellows and full-time staffers.
  • 700+ “friends of WCSA,” which includes people off Capitol Hill.
  • Over the last 10 years, 3,000 women have used WCSA as a resource, whether by joining as a member or attending events.
  • WCSA has held 300 events for registered attendees (other events are open).
  • Four congressional sponsors: Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lois Frankel.

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