About Us

The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) is the only national organization with the sole focus of preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena. PLEN is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C. Through introducing college women to role models, career paths, and skills trainings before they enter the workforce, PLEN’s mission is to increase the number of women in top leadership positions influencing all aspects of the public policy process.

Each year, PLEN brings hundreds of women students from colleges and universities across the country to Washington, D.C. They experience first-hand how public policy is shaped and implemented at the national level. They are better prepared to become the next generation of public policy decision makers.

Students meet with and learn from female leaders making and influencing public policy at the highest levels in Congress, the courts, federal agencies, the private sector, policy research and advocacy organizations, and the media. These women leaders serve as teachers as well as mentors. Students and schools report this experience is invaluable.

PLEN’s programs include: Women, Law & Legal Advocacy; Science & Health Policy: Critical Issues; Women’s Leadership in Public Policy; Women & Policy in the Global Community; and new seminars including Unlocking Nonprofits: Careers and Innovations and Leveraging Communication, Social Media, and Technology for Policymaking.

History

Founded by a consortium of women’s colleges in 1978, PLEN’s member schools include some of the nation’s oldest women’s colleges like College of Notre Dame, Douglass Residential College of Rutgers University, Mount Holyoke, Mount St. Mary’s, Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Smith College, St. Catherine University, and Wesleyan College.

Impact

Since 1978, PLEN has served thousands of women from colleges and universities nationwide.  Currently, 40 percent of our participants are from populations historically under-represented in national public leadership because of race or ethnicity. Additionally, 13 percent are nontraditional age students who use this experience to launch a new career. Women who have participated in PLEN programs have gone on to be leaders in congressional offices, federal agencies, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations.

See what some PLEN alumnae have to say about PLEN’s impact on their professions:

“The PLEN network is a terrific way to break into the world of public policy which can seem daunting when you are in school outside Washington, D.C.”Christine Turner (1995), Director, Office of the Executive Secretariat, U.S. Department of Commerce

“In Washington, it means something to say you were a PLEN student.” - Kristin Haffert (1995), Founder and President, Haffert Global

“PLEN opened the door and I give it all the credit for getting me here.” - Alejandra Ceja (1995), Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, U.S. Department of Education