As a child, Jessica Byrd was regularly informed that she was “bossy and sassy,” and as such, was surely going to be a lawyer when she grew up. Naturally, when she heard of the PLEN Women, Law & Public Policy Seminar her freshman year at Chatham College, she knew she had to go. The native Ohioan took advantage of the seminar to ask questions from the women speakers about their experiences and day to day lives working in law. While she found their shared stories fascinating, she realized that law wasn’t what she wanted to be doing. Rather than leave dejected, Jessica saw this as a positive takeaway and left knowing that she “wanted to affect justice.”
The following year she returned to PLEN at the Women & Congress Seminar where she says, “My mind exploded. It was so clear that women were not only leading but also having an influence in the political system in a variety of ways.” Jessica left her second PLEN seminar knowing that she was “supposed to be electing people to Congress.”
Jessica took a year off of school from 2007-2008 to join the Obama for America staff, working in South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania primaries. After the election’s success, she joined Organizing for America as a Regional Field Director. Working in Missouri, Jessica’s focus was on the passage of the Affordable Care Act, organizing people to contact their representative to prioritize the vote. She then moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as the special assistant to the CEO and Chief of Staff of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Jessica’s career path continues to live up to her goal of affecting justice and influencing policy with her work at EMILY’s List, organizing at the grassroots and state level to elect pro-choice, Democratic women to office. Her career path was highly influenced and shaped by her two PLEN experiences.
“PLEN helped me have that initial conversation about law and law school. Without it I probably would have followed a different path that wasn’t right for how I best learn and contribute. Candid conversations and a sisterhood of strong women was the best thing that I got out of my PLEN experience.”