Women In Public Affairs

The McGuireWoods Consulting (MWC) Women in Public Affairs initiative focuses on bringing together women working in government affairs and advocacy through a series of local and regional educational events and networking opportunities. As women continue to increasingly hold positions of leadership, McGuireWoods Consulting is taking the lead in supporting opportunities for the next generation of female leaders. MWC Women in Public Affairs provides women working in government affairs and advocacy a platform to share thought leadership and best business practices, as well as a growing network to raise profiles and invest in women dedicated to advocacy services. McGuireWoods Consulting partners with our clients on this initiative to expand existing relationships and support new ideas. Read more about the initiative in our press release.

Stay tuned for additional events and networking opportunities from MWC Women in Public Affairs. In the meantime, read our online series on “Women in Public Affairs to Know” to learn more about women’s work on legislative solutions and advocacy services:


Executive and Legislative Affairs, AT&T

“I always encourage young professionals to try different fields. I’ve worked government, non-profit and private and I think having all of that experience has given me the best possible knowledge and skills to do what I do now.”

Mary Trigiani

Executive, communicator and commentator

“Leaning in signifies the adoption of a collaborative model in which we agree on the problems, want solutions, and are honest with one another. Getting to the other side of problems – to solutions – requires transparency, which itself requires an ethical sensibility. It requires accepting that perhaps every one of us is doing something to hold others back. In Appalachia, as in all of rural America, we are the keepers of the flame of fairness. That’s the best in us. And we have to use it expand both access and performance. To lean in today requires courage.”

Jayme Swain

CEO, Virginia Foundation for Public Media and President, VPM

“Having worked so long at national media outlets has helped remind me of the importance of local news. So many decisions that are made locally affect our everyday lives, and I think that became even clearer over this past year as we dealt with the pandemic and conversations about racial justice.”

Dana White

Chief Communications Officer, Hyundai Motor North America

“Giving your recommendation can be a hard thing to learn especially because the people I have worked for are intense and fast-moving. But, I know they have me there because of my knowledge and judgment. I think it can be particularly difficult for women, because often women and minorities walk into situations where they think they have to come in and justify their presence. They don’t; I always think, “if you’re in the room, you’re good enough!” What I knew in all of the situations with Secretary Mattis, Senator McCain and now José, is that they trust me and expect to know what I think. If they have questions, they’ll ask me, but I always lead with my recommendation. I have found superior leaders seek contrary, divergent and diverse perspectives, because it empowers them to make the best decision—the first time.”

Marie Hocker

Executive Director, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent

“I tell any young person that I engage with, or mentor formally, that the best leaders influence and promote change by being the change they want to see. You have to live your values and work toward the change that you want to see. Without action, you’re just talking, and no one has time for that— particularly today, where there’s so much need.”

Chelsi Bennett

Virginia Government Relations Director, American Heart Association

“The racial injustice discussions occurring in this current climate are helpful because the subject of race is being talked about and brought to light. Growing up, my neighborhood was heavily policed. Friends and neighbors were targeted and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to become an attorney. Seeing injustice up close inspired me to be an advocate and voice for the voiceless to ensure that one mistake did not ruin a person’s life.”

Carly Fiorina

Founder and Chairman, Carly Fiorina Enterprises

“One of the reasons that I speak so often about courage is because criticism is always the price for problem-solving and leadership. When you challenge the way things are, people who are in that system are going to criticize, or people who are afraid of change are going to criticize and make it so you can’t tackle a problem. There will be criticism tackling a long-standing, festering, important, and difficult problem, and therefore courage is essential.”

Linda Townsend

VP of Advocacy and Government Affairs, CHRISTUS Health

“If you can be respectful and substantive, you can work with everyone. We had an open door policy where we had to meet with everyone, and working for CHRISTUS Health now we partner with people across the spectrum. We may have friends on one issue on one side of the aisle and friends on different issues on the other side of the aisle. Senator Van de Putte was a Democrat in a Republican state, and when you’re in the minority you have to be creative about building coalitions and making friends. You have to find ways to relate to people in a way that resonates with them and be able to work with all sides.”

Amanda Darlington

Director of Government Relations, Council for Responsible Nutrition

“Build your skills. Writing, public speaking – whether it be lobbying a legislator, testifying at a hearing, drafting testimony, drafting legislation, building coalitions, issuing press releases, bylines, and articles, or making internal and external presentations – I have found it helpful to try on as many hats as possible at your organization or company and gather as many skills that you can and take them with you wherever you go.”

Nicole Barranco

Senior Director of State Government Relations for Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

“Surviving a crisis situation is a great learning experience and is actually viewed as a strength in your professional portfolio to show that you have endured a crisis, survived and reemerged in decent shape. Given all that is going on in the US currently with COVID-19 and with racial inequality, corporate America has a tremendous opportunity at its feet. That opportunity is to reshape and refocus practices of the past and to implement groundbreaking and innovative strategies that will successfully reshape the way business is conducted modern America.”

Mara Motherway

Head of Government Affairs, Booz Allen Hamilton

“For me, diversity is a fact and inclusion is an act, but I don’t believe it stops there. The real secret of diversity and inclusion is sharing power. You can invite a diverse group of people to the table but unless you share power, you are not maximizing the intentional nature of it. Within our team, it’s important to make sure every person knows their voice matters. There are no underdogs. That’s always been really important to me in teambuilding.”

Tracy Montross

Regional Director of Government Affairs, American Airlines

“Constituent services is the thread throughout my career. I started out as a gatekeeper, managing the schedule and access to a senator and then two mayors, which taught me how to prioritize and how to help constituents feel heard and respected. I bring that same kind of constituent service approach to my role in the private sector.”

Elizabeth Kersey

Vice President, Communications and Public Policy, PRA Group

“I think that is a hallmark of a great leader – choosing people that, intuitively, you feel can come in, work hard and take very seriously the charge that they’re given.”

Molly Fogarty

Vice President, Government Relations and Public Affairs, Nestle

“I carry curiosity with me every day, and that means trying to be open to change, and identify when I can do something better or differently.”

Latoya Thomas

Director, Policy and Government Affairs, Doctor on Demand

“If we are reflective of the communities that we’re serving, then I think we can better impact and redefine what virtual care means moving forward.”

Prashanthi Rao Raman

Director, Public Policy, Lyft

“If I were to give advice to someone making a career change, I would say do what motivates you, stay true to yourself, and never underestimate yourself.”

Ann Hanlon

Executive Director, Perimeter Community Improvement Districts

“The flexibility of the industry is absolutely a positive thing. However, we need to work on recognizing that women are bringing the same amount of value if not sometimes more value in the public affairs space – especially because women tend to be good communicators and problem solvers.”

Kristi Kelly

Executive Director, Marijuana Industry Group

“I do believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in this environment, I think that innovation is a bigger driver. In order for innovation to occur, we have to get really comfortable with the fact that we are attracting intelligent people from different backgrounds and they’re coming together to address different issues.”

Mary Moore Hamrick

Chief Public Policy Officer, Grant Thornton

“I think that technology in general is the biggest disruptor, not only of the accounting profession, but of all industries in general. The successful firms, companies and businesses are going to be those that understand how technology either changes or disrupts your business and how you can harness that to do a better job or change the way in which you do your job going forward.”

Erica Gordon

Vice President, Government Affairs, Hilton

“My best advice is to actually spend time listening to those who don’t agree with your position. It is really important to speak to your internal stakeholders and your business partners to know what you’re advocating for, but understanding the opposing point of view is empowering. It challenges your thought process, helps sharpen your arguments and ultimately makes you a better advocate for your issues.”