Washington is a town obsessed with power -- how it is acquired, how it is used, and especially who wields it. In some ways, the answers are intuitive and obvious: by poll, in policy, by the president on down. But as we all know, there is more to the story. The noise of outside advocacy groups, the push and pull of conflicting interests, and the often-invisible impact of money all affect the use of power.
Although Washington is still a long way from gender parity, women are gaining more top positions (in Congress, on the Supreme Court, and in the administration) every year. A lesser-told story is their rise outside D.C. officialdom. Some of Washington’s most influential women, such as Nancy Pelosi, have the renown that accords with their station. But many others -- for example, Sharon Soderstrom, the chief of staff for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or American Insurance Association President Leigh Ann Pusey -- wield less-visible authority.
So we asked our Political Insiders -- 174 experts from a range of D.C. specialties -- who they think are doing the most to shape this town. From their suggestions, a National Journal panel of reporters and editors compiled a highly unscientific list of 25 of Washington’s most influential women. We left off some obviously important people (such as Valerie Jarrett and Ruth Bader Ginsburg), because rather than pick three Supreme Court justices, for instance, we wanted to include women from all facets of Washington life. Many of these women talked to NJ about their (slowly) increasing share of power, the work/life balance everyone here struggles with, and other obstacles that women must still overcome.