Women's Policy Institute (WPI)

About   |   Impact   |   WPI-State Fellows   |   WPI-County Fellows   |   Alumni  


Transformational. That's the word most people use when describing our Women’s Policy Institute. Over the last 13 years, this leadership and public policy training program has transformed the lives of over 350 women. And those women have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands more.

How? During their training our fellows helped pass 25 laws that have had far-reaching results. One law, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, extended legal labor protections to 100,000 low-wage workers in California, majority of them women. These women can finally earn overtime pay.

Why public policy? Because public policy is a powerful means to solving social problems. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Morality can’t be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” By participating in shaping our laws, regulations and ordinances, we can help direct the course of our democracy, economy and shared future. In essence, public policy can help us achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Why women? Because women and girls are a critical voice often missing in Sacramento and at the local level of policymaking. Women are missing both as policymakers and as policy influencers. That means that women’s lives, bodies and futures are being legislated on in their absence.

Because we believe that women need to have a greater impact on the fundamental conditions that affect their lives, families and communities, we are striving to increase the number of women who are actively engaged in public policy. We want to give women the tools, resources, relationships and coalitions they need to powerfully speak for themselves and their communities.

Because if they do not speak for themselves, somebody else will.


WPI-State Fellowship

Meet the 2016 WPI-State Class. Below you can familiarize yourself with the work of our WPI teams by learning about the bills our 2015 WPI-State Class worked on.



Criminal Justice Team
Assembly Bill 396 (Jones-Sawyer) Fair Chance at Housing Act

Marelene Hurd, Stephanie Medley, Marsha Chien, Heather Warnken and Irona Lofton advocated to end discrimination against people with prior criminal records when applying for housing. Obtaining stable housing is key to successful reintegration into the community and reuniting women with their children.


Health Team
AB 1299 (Ridley-Thomas)—Specialty Mental Health Service for Foster Children

Graciela Larios, Miki Carpenter, Nancy Mejia, Kim Williams and Anna Siria Urzua advocated for foster youth to receive mental health care without interruption, even when their residency changes from one county to another. Unfortunately, that care is often discontinued, with negative effects on the youth.


Domestic Violence Team
Senate Bill 592 (Levya)—Healthy Relationships and Safe Schools Act

Stephanie Nguyen, Crystal Guerrero, Maria Reyes, Jesse Torrey, Marissa Seko and Melodie Kruspodin advocated to prevent violent relationships in adolescence by involving schools in prevention, detection and intervention. Early intervention can greatly decrease the risk of domestic violence in adulthood.


Workforce Development Team
Senate Bill 521 (Liu)—CalFresh Employment and Training Program

Cynthia Guzman, Lisa Marroquin, Nikki Newsome and Sequoia Hall worked to make the CalFresh Employment & Training program more accessible. Though they have the potential to bring women and their families out of poverty, these lifesaving programs are currently widely underutilized.


WPI-County Fellowship

In 2015, we expanded our groundbreaking WPI-State program to the county level. We created WPI-County, a county-level policy advocacy fellowship program and piloted it in Riverside. The county-level training focuses on building strong policy and budget advocates at the local level because, through realignment and the administration of the Affordable Care Act, funding and responsibility has shifted to the counties.

This year, the WPI-County fellowship program will be made up of pre-formed teams from four counties in California—Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Monterey. By pre-formed, we mean that teams of three to six women will apply to the fellowship together. The women will work or live in the same county and will represent different organizations that are already working or want to start working together. Locations for the trainings will rotate between the counties and the fellows will travel to Sacramento as well. Our goal is to show, first hand, how various county and state governments and programs interact and impact each other. WPI-County team projects will focus on developing solutions to county-level challenges that affect women’s economic conditions and health, including criminal justice, domestic violence, economic justice, environmental justice, health and reproductive justice.

Because WPI-County is a peer learning and experiential training fellowship, our fellows and their teams will be researching and developing policy advocacy projects of their choosing, all the while supported by a mentor who is an expert in public policy work. The fellows will develop relationships with key county policy makers, government employees and allied advocates in their county; produce a policy brief analyzing the problem and offering policy solutions for the issue they’re focusing on; and create and begin to implement an advocacy plan to move their policy solutions onto their county’s policy agenda.

WPI-County is a biliangual English and Spanish program. Meet our 2016 WPI-County fellows! >>

Our unique model

The mission of the Women’s Foundation of California is to help create a California where women and children are economically secure and can thrive. This is possible only when women themselves are empowered as leaders of change.

Our Women's Policy Institute is a core strategy for achieving our mission. All of our teams work on public policies that support low-income women and enable them to achieve economic security, but each team picks a different focus and tactic. For example, a Career and College Access team might work on a bill that enables women to complete their community college education and get living wage jobs, while our Safety Net Policy team might work on a bill that makes it easier for working women to qualify for subsidized childcare.

Furthermore, our model is unique because we're not just investing in individual women leaders. We're investing in women leaders of grassroots organizations. By educating them in public policy we're educating their organizations and their communities. Most of the women we train go back to their organizations and educate their colleagues as well as lead public policy and advocacy initiatives in their local communities and throughout the state. As a result, we're increasing the capacity of the entire economic security movement not just individual women.


Goals of our public policy training

  • Teach useful public policy skills to women grassroots leaders
  • Increase community leaders' participation in policy formation and implementation
  • Prepare our fellows and their organizations to lead ongoing advocacy and policy work
  • Produce state and county policy that reflects the needs of California’s women, girls and families
  • Strengthen collaborations among social justice organizations and movements in California
  • Create a stronger and broader social justice movement in California
  • Increase economic security of women and their families in California