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Breaking Glass

Interested in women's issues? This may be the group for you

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Rebecca M. Freed, left, is board counsel to the Women's Political Caucus of New Jersey.
Rebecca M. Freed, left, is board counsel to the Women's Political Caucus of New Jersey. - ()

Even with little to no experience in politics whatsoever — as skilled at debate I may be — the Women's Political Caucus of New Jersey is one organization that every person with a vested interest in women's issues should learn more about.

Since 1977, the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey (a nonpartisan organization) has sought to increase women’s participation in the political process and the number of women in elected and appointed office in New Jersey.

It has done so by recruiting, educating, training and endorsing progressive women candidates and their campaigns; advocating on issues that support women and families; working closely with women’s groups across the state; and sponsoring county and college chapters of WPCNJ.

“We spend a great deal of our time working with women to get them comfortable running for office, and helping them to see politics and government service as something they should aspire to be a part of,” said Rebecca M. Freed, partner at Genova Burns in Newark and WPCNJ board counsel since 2010.

“We encourage women to do something that might not ever have been an area they considered for themselves, and then give them the resources to pursue those aspirations.”

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Regardless of whether one is interested in a career in politics or not, the organization provides a strong network of women that encourages mentorship and support between like-minded individuals, from college-aged students to retired women who have led full careers.

“My practice area focuses a lot on campaigns and elections, and I noticed that I was primarily dealing with men,” Freed said. “I was interested in getting to know more women who were involved in politics and having a seat at the table to get more women appointed and elected to office.”

The same goes for Chrissy Buteas, president and CEO of the Home Care Association of New Jersey and vice president of finance for WPCNJ.

“I joined the organization right after college,” Buteas said. “I wanted to go into law enforcement, but an internship with Sen. Jon Corzine got me interested in government and politics. I learned so much about how women were underrepresented, and found myself getting really involved with the Middlesex County chapter and then service at the state level.”

As part of the organization for nearly a decade, Buteas has been instrumental in organizing the WPCNJ’s signature annual event that acknowledges men, women and organizations in politics, government, business, health, media and education who have promoted women’s political progress.

This year, the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey will host its annual “Passion, Power, Progress” awards ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 15, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick.

“We use this opportunity to highlight the extraordinary efforts of leaders — both men and women — from across the state who have used their leadership role to encourage and advance women in government or in their private practices,” Buteas said.

This year’s honorees include:

  • Peg Schaffer, Somerset County Democratic Chair and managing principal at Shain, Schaffer & Rafanello
  • Mary E. O’Dowd, New Jersey health commissioner
  • Paulette Brown , partner at Edwards Wildman
  • U.S. Sen. Cory Booker
  • William J. Palatucci, special counsel at Gibbons Law
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association
  • Gilda M. Morales, project manager of information services at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University

Please visit www.wpcnj.org for more information on the event, the organization and additional networking breakfasts scheduled for early next year.

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