Fels Student Attends "Professional Women in Advocacy" Conference

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Madeline O'Brien, MPA '19
November 13, 2017

Above: Madeline O'Brien with Alisyn Camerota after receiving a signed copy of her new book, "Amanda Wakes Up".

Professional Women in Advocacy held their annual conference November 6-7 in Washington, D.C. The conference brings together female advocacy and government relations professionals from across the country for two days of professional development training, speaker sessions, and networking opportunities. As an aspiring government relations professional, the conference was an excellent opportunity for me to develop new skills and see how women are empowering each other to better advocate for the populations they serve.

Breakout sessions covered topics relating to Advocacy and Outreach, Professional Development, and State and Federal Government Relations. A session on congressional procedure, which highlighted how advocates can better capitalize on political and procedural considerations to move bills on Capitol Hill, was particularly informative. I was reminded of the “Context” area of the CAP model we use at Fels: even the best policy will never be effective if it can’t get passed into law. Another highlight was a session on salary negotiation and the gender wage gap. The presenters shared data on the wage gap and tactics for approaching the negotiating table, and audience members shared their experiences at the salary table. 

During the general sessions, speakers included representatives from Rock the Vote, the One Foundation, the Hill Latino, and AARP, among others. The keynote speaker was Alisyn Camerota of CNN’s “New Day”, who spoke about her experience with sexual assault in the workplace, the #MeToo movement, and balancing the demands of a fast-moving, high stress job while having children at home. Participants received a copy of Camerota’s new book, “Amanda Wakes Up”, and got to meet her for a book signing at the end of the event.

The conference also provided ample opportunities for networking and career development. Relationship building is a huge component of the advocacy field, and built in networking sessions throughout the day gave ample opportunity for participants to practice these skills. I even had the opportunity to connect with an old friend who also happened to be attending the conference! One highlight from the career development session was one-on-one leadership mentoring sessions: I was able to spend 20 minutes with a professional coach to discuss my career goals and how to achieve them. This session particularly helpful, because we were able to discuss career strategies that were unique to me as a graduate student living outside of Washington, D.C. (compared to the main conference demographic of professionals working inside the Beltway).

The Professional Women in Advocacy Conference was a great opportunity to build new skills, hear from accomplished women leaders, and meet fellow aspiring and professional advocates. I left the conference with even more confidence that this is the career that I wish to pursue, and new insights in how to reach my career goals. I’m very grateful to the Fels conference fund, which provided me with $300 for the purpose of attending the conference, for this opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. 


Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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