New Female State Legislators Learn from Their Elders

A nonpartisan nonprofit helps newly elected female legislators learn how to serve their constituents better by pairing them with veteran lawmakers.

Both newly elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in November, Lynn Gattis, left, and Lora Reinbold, right, congratulate each other on their wins. (Photo: AP/Michael Dinneen)

In January, a host of newly elected officials will be reporting for duty in male-dominated legislative chambers (only 24 percent of all state lawmakers are women). To help smooth female state legislators' transition into their new jobs, Women in Government, a nonpartisan nonprofit in Washington, D.C., has developed a mentoring program that pairs veteran female legislators with those who have just been elected.

The pair meet at the organization's annual conference in early January, which focuses on policy issues and media training. During the conference, first-term legislators have the opportunity to get advice from longtime lawmakers on anything -- from how to get on committees to how to get leadership roles, according to Marjorie McGinn, the nonprofit's executive director. Some of the pairs even share hotel rooms. The nonprofit encourages a bipartisan atmosphere by showing only attendees' names and states on their nametags. Women in Government offers many yearround services to female lawmakers, one of which is an open-source website
chock full of policy toolkits.

Brian Peteritas is a GOVERNING contributor.