"We are absolute advocates for women's opportunity and success," says Finn, who worked on George W. Bush's and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns before a two-year stint leading strategic partnerships at Twitter. At the same time, she says, the group wants to make sure it's "preserving freedom, family, and free enterprise as priorities."
But stereotypes often stem from truth, and the cliche that Republicans have work to do with women is grounded in reality. Even in 2014, a fruitful election for the GOP, the demographic divide persisted: Women favored Democrats by a 4-point margin, according to Pew, while men preferred GOP candidates by 16 points. Young voters, meanwhile, continued their trend of supporting Democratic candidates.
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Empowered Women is trying to alter those trends, starting with a written credo of what the women in the organization believe. The 13 vague, purposefully nonpartisan affirmations include assertions that the group's members are "individuals who think and speak for ourselves" and who "live a fulfilled life, whatever that means to each of us."
From that manifesto, which Finn found tested well with young women across the ideological spectrum, "it was clear there was a need for a sustained effort," she says, one that put bright, influential conservative women in the public eye to dispel the caricatures often touted by liberal rhetoric.
"Seeing is the first step toward believing for many women," says Kellyanne Conway, the president and CEO of the Polling Company Inc./Women Trend, a polling firm in Washington. "And for many women, to see that there's even an alternative to the progressive, liberal orthodoxy that has every woman constantly thinking about abortion, contraception, being a victim of the patriarchy," while at the same time showing "an alternative of fun, engaging accomplished women" helps send that message, she says.
Empowered Women is attempting to build a network of these women across the country. Their April launch, which, in addition to the main event in Washington, included inaugural gatherings in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, and Little Rock, drew a slew of conservative women, including politicians on their way up, like freshman Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York—the youngest woman ever elected to Congress—and Barbara Comstock of Virginia.
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The organization also plans to conduct research and polling into what college-educated women in their 20s and 30s think and want, and use the findings to shape its messaging and policy aims. Because Empowered Women is a 501(c)3, it won't lobby Congress for specific policies; instead, it will use its research to educate the public about policies its community supports. Along the way, it will encourage the women in the organization's community to speak out, writing op-eds in mainstream media outlets and women's magazines about the cause.