Heard on the Hill

Amid #MeToo Fallout in Congress, Mentorship Is Up

Women’s group provides ‘a place for women to confide in other women’

With so many women wanting a mentor at the end of 2017, the Women’s Congressional Staff Association had to get creative. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As revelations of sexual misconduct rocked Capitol Hill, one staffer group saw a spike in requests from its members, the majority of whom are in their 20s.

What did they want? Mentorship.

“There is no substitute for female mentorship; it’s crucial for young women to have someone they can turn to,” said Colleen Carlos, president of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association.

While learning how to climb the career ladder on Capitol Hill is important, so are safe spaces for young women to talk about “these very tough and sensitive issues.”

What they need is a place to “confide in other women,” Carlos said. She is a legislative director for Rep. Robert A. Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

A staple of the association since it was founded a decade ago, the WCSA’s mentorship program now includes 130 women — a record number. That means 65 women are being mentored.

[Women’s Congressional Staff Association Looks Back at 10 Years]

Former president Eliza Ramirez’s term was up at the end of 2017, when the #MeToo movement was at its peak.

Mentorship is “more than attending various leadership training courses. It’s about building trusted, long-term relationships,” Ramirez said. She is a legislative assistant for Rep. Michael Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat.

“Essentially, it’s building a foundation of trust,” she added.

With so many women wanting a mentor at the end of 2017, WCSA had to get creative to fill the demand.

Women in senior roles told the association they wanted to help young female staffers, but work-life balance is tough.

“They either have families that they have to go home to or their jobs are extremely taxing. They just don’t have time,” Ramirez said.

The group also likes to make sure the program includes a bipartisan and diverse cross-section of women from both the House and Senate. To make that happen, they invited former staffers now working off the Hill to be mentors.

Ramirez said the program can function as a sort of finding aid for women, especially those who are isolated in offices mostly run by men.

“Capitol Hill, because it still is a male-dominated profession, it can be challenging for women to seek help on how to build networks, how to negotiate salaries,” she said. “Or even communication. Communicating … especially with male staffers.”

And the group is already seeing the fruits of its recent labors.

“Not only did junior staffers expand their professional networks with the program, but several mentees received promotions, new jobs, and increased responsibilities in their current roles,” said Tess Glancey, WSCA co-chair for outreach and community service.

Glancey is deputy director of communications on the House Homeland Security Committee.

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