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Women’s Public Leadership Network Awards Half-Million Dollars to Break Barriers for Female Candidates

·4-min read

Grants Awarded to 10 State-Based Organizations from California to Massachusetts

Women’s Public Leadership Network (WPLN) today announced grants totaling a half-million dollars to state-based training nonprofits across the country, kicking off what promises to be an historic campaign season. WPLN, which educates, organizes, and inspires women to enter public office across the U.S., chose to make these inaugural grants in conjunction with the Centennial of the 19th Amendment. Through its growing network of partners and rich offering of online resources, WPLN is pursuing its mission of bringing more voices to the table, equipping commonsense, pragmatic women to enter public office.

"There has long been a need for state resources that offer in-person training and mentor support for women seeking public office, and who identify as right of center in their principles. It’s no secret that women remain underrepresented in political leadership, especially center-right women. Our hope is that through our work, more women from all walks of life will have access to the tools they need to step into leadership positions," said Larissa Martinez, Co-Founder & President.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting the majority of women the right to vote. But progress has been slow when it comes to holding elected office. Only 24 percent of Congressional seats are held by women, and women account for only 29 percent of state legislatures. WPLN supports the advancement of women in leadership roles ranging from their local school boards to Congress and beyond.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, a record number of women have filed to run for U.S. House seats in 2020, including a record number of Republican women. As CAWP director Debbie Walsh said in a statement, "We’ll never get to parity without women on both sides of the aisle running and winning." WPLN’s goal is to do just that, continuing the momentum to every level of government, increasing the number of women in both elected and appointed positions.

"We want to help equip women at every step of their public service journey," said Jenifer Sarver, chair of the WPLN board of directors, "and with these grants we are putting our money where our mouth is." A former congressional candidate herself, Sarver added, "When individuals with diverse backgrounds are in office, new perspectives are injected into policy discussions helping produce better policy outcomes for all Americans. A diversity of ideas leads to better decisions overall."

WPLN is committed to building a network of stakeholders, including a robust list of expert practitioners, former elected officials, and community leaders, as well as state-based and national organizations in the nonprofit and corporate sector, who are identifying, engaging, and training women to run for elected office, obtain political appointment, and become more involved in the political process. The nonpartisan organization is the first of its kind on the center-right and seeks to level the playing field across the political divide by actively focusing on women who believe in commonsense, pragmatic public policy solutions.

Organizations are eligible to become partners who share the WPLN mission, have established 501c3 or 501c4 status, and demonstrate active engagement in the area of public policy and civic engagement, while working with women leaders and on issues related to women’s empowerment. As a partner, an organization may access the invitation-only grant application, as well as online and in-person training opportunities, leadership summits, and issues education. WPLN grants are intended to help build-out capacity in state-based partner organizations.

Already, the organization has recruited grassroots partners in 10 states and is pleased to announce grants in two separate categories, including Operational & Program Grants (OPG) in existing partner states, and New Development Cohort (NDC) grants for newly recruited state partners:

OPG Awardees:

  • Rise New Mexico

  • Virginia Conservative Women’s Coalition

  • Colorado Women’s Alliance

  • LBJ Women’s Campaign School, Texas

  • California Women’s Leadership Association

  • The Pocketbook Project, Massachusetts

NDC Awardees:

  • She Holds the Key, Michigan

  • VoteHer, Georgia

  • Louisiana Women Lead

  • Nevada Women’s Alliance

  • Colorado Women’s Alliance Foundation

"These states have exhibited a commitment to diversifying leadership through fostering women leaders at the local and state level," Martinez said. "Through these grant dollars, we will help them scale their respective models to provide leadership training opportunities to build skill sets and increase outreach efforts, to build out that pipeline of women leaders at every level."

WPLN is funded by a combination of private donors, philanthropic organizations and foundations, including Democracy Fund and Pivotal Ventures, the investment company created by Melinda Gates. Through the support of their generous funders, WPLN is able to offer its support, resources, and content at no cost to its members.

For more information on WPLN, visit

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Sunita Theiss, 404-775-5075