About PLEN

PLEN’s mission is to increase the number of women in top leadership positions influencing all aspects of the public policy process.

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.


Each year, PLEN engages over 275+ female students from colleges and universities across the country with leaders and speakers working in Washington, D.C. and beyond to:

  • experience first-hand how public policy is shaped and implemented at the national level
  • prepare 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
  • Court and Judicial Systems
  • Federal Agencies
  • The private sector
  • Policy research and advocacy organizations
  • Media

These women leaders serve as teachers as well as mentors. Students and schools report this experience as invaluable to the development of students.

More about PLEN

Paving the path

The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) was founded in 1978 by Frances Tarlton "Sissy" Farenthold, president of Wells College. Sissy brought her experiences as a Texas state legislator and candidate for governor to her new role as president of a women’s college, proposing that women’s colleges work together to educate women for public leadership.

Opportunity for all

Although roughly 40 percent of the women students participating in PLEN programs come from coed colleges and universities, the majority of PLEN students do come from member institutions,  primarily women’s colleges, which support PLEN through their annual membership contributions.

Preparing to change the world

PLEN remains the only national organization whose sole focus is preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena.

Extend the Power of PLEN

Other sources of PLEN support are generated by program fees and contributions by individuals, foundations and corporations. PLEN depends on the generosity of donors to keep its programs affordable for students.