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Shaping Policy

Women Business Owners Head to the Hill

It’s one thing to say something and quite another to do something. Just ask the 70 women “doers” from across the country who carved out time away from running their successful businesses last month to take action on Capital Hill and make a difference for themselves and other women business owners.

NAWBO Board of Directors with Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahonThe annual NAWBO National event allows women business owners to connect with their peers as well as elected officials and public policy experts in the nation’s capital. This year’s event featured remarks from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon as well as multiple members of Congress, including Debbie Dingell, Doris Matsui, Stephanie Murphy, Kyrsten Sinema and Jackie Walorski. 

“NAWBO was founded 42 years ago to serve as the first advocacy organization for all women business owners,” says Teresa Meares, NAWBO National Board Chair. “Generations of NAWBO leaders left their mark on the public policy debates of their day by participating in international trade missions and the White House Conferences on Small Business. We are proud to carry on that legacy by bringing NAWBO members from across the country, representing all sizes, sectors and segments of the women business community to Washington, D.C. to connect directly with their elected officials on the issues that impact them like taxes, access to capital and the development of a more qualified workforce to meet the economy we have now and the economy we are moving into.”

The day after Advocacy Day, NAWBO hosted is first annual Academy for Public Service, which allows NAWBO members access to the information and experts they need to pursue their paths into public service. Both events will be hosted again in Washington, D.C. next June.

Catherine Lang-ClineCatherine Lang-Cline, president and co-founder of Portfolio Creative, says she felt it was important to attend since there is always strength in numbers, and the more women business owners speak out on issues their impact their businesses, the better. “Legislators listen when a large group speaks,” she says. “My hope when I attend events like this is for my state reps and members of anything affiliated with small business to either know my name or know the name of NAWBO. It is far easier to get your message to the person in power if they recognize your name immediately, if a relationship has been established, rather than trying to build a relationship the minute you need something.”

Looking back on the experience, one of her favorite memories isn’t what she learned or who she spoke with (though, that was amazing, too). It’s the incredible sound of all those heels echoing through hallways and filling rooms as this group of women traveled together from place to place. “We filled the room of Senator Kaine, we filled the room wherever we went,” she shares. “They see us as a group that is involved, that shows up, and because we want to have our voices heard, they will see us as a valuable resource when making legislative decisions or when they are in need of an opinion about business, they will call us.”

As for what she learned, Lang-Cline says the most valuable thing was simply that our legislature is very willing to listen to people who run businesses. “They want to know what helps us in business,” she says. “They want to have business owners as a resource for the legislation they create.”