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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to have lunch with a woman my mom knows that is the president of a health non-profit in DC. For reason s that will later become obvious, I am not going to name her or her organization.

The woman was incredibly generous with her time and advice; making a big effort to share her insights as a prominent female, mid-thirties in the non-profit scene in DC. She spoke to me about an instance in the last 6 months were some individuals concerned about the issues her non-profit advocates for went on a smear campaign against her on the internet. She told me about some the personal attacks that were extremely hurtful and involved things such as her appearance and her chief of staff’s personal life. It was fascinating hearing her talk about how toxic some of the discussion around their work had become. For this reason, she had to hire a personal attorney and a crisis public relations team to attempt to manage the fall out. In her opinion, much of this wouldn’t have happened if she was a male or older.

This experience validated a lot of my expectations that some women experience in the DC world of cut throat politics. Seeing how she managed it with such grace and thoughtfulness was a great lesson in how to address such a situation. She said that instead of lashing out or getting angry with the people that were criticizing her she invited them to come to DC to have a conversation. Of course they did not accept but the saying definitely rings true that you “catch more flies with honey than vinegar”.

I’ve really been making a huge effort while in DC to network with as many people as possible, take as many lunches, dinners, mixers as possible, averaging about four a week. While this has been a tiring exercise, I feel as though my network is really growing in a meaningful way and I’m learning so much.

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