GSPM alumna, senate chief of staff talks challenges for women on the Hill

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Staff Photographer

Megan Whittemore – the chief of staff for U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. – appeared on a live taping of “For Future Reference,” a podcast hosted by alumna Tori Taylor.

A chief of staff for Georgia’s senior U.S. senator discussed her political career in the Science and Engineering Hall Thursday.

Megan Whittemore – the chief of staff for U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and a Graduate School of Political Management alumna – offered advice to young people pursuing a career in politics in a live taping of “For Future Reference,” a podcast focused on issues women face in the workplace hosted by GSPM alumna Tori Taylor. About 15 people attended the event, during which Whittemore talked about advice she found helpful throughout her career.

Whittemore said one piece of advice she heard early on in her career that has always stuck with her is the notion that one should “always take a seat at the table” in meetings.

“Especially as a young woman and trying to find your place as a junior staffer in politics, I think you often walk into a meeting, walk into a large conference room, and it can be somewhat intimidating,” she said. “But I think it’s really important that you sit at the table and be part of the conversation.”

Whittemore said another best practice she has adopted it to stay in touch and continually follow up with connections made through networking.

“Always check in with people when you get a new job,” she said. “When you move to a different role, just say ‘Hey, if I can ever be helpful.’”

Whittemore added that people – women in particular – should remember to celebrate their personal successes and the achievements of those around them.

“I think that’s also hard, specifically for women, and sometimes we’re just onto the next thing or looking for the next opportunity,” she said. “And little do we think about all the things we’ve accomplished so far.”

Whittemore said she has found a strong support system in the other female chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill, who she said all “have their own kind of force.”

“I was lucky that those are my go-tos now when there’s something we’re dealing with, whether it’s a staff issue or just a policy question or even just an institutional question,” she said. “It’s great to have other women chiefs of staff who either have been doing this longer than I have or who come at it from a different place.”

Whittemore, who has been working on Capitol Hill for more than a decade, said she always asks prospective candidates for jobs what they do outside of work. She said the question offers insight into the candidates’ range of perspectives and their ability to balance life and work.

“We need to realize that nothing is forever in politics,” she said. “And we have to have that perspective to make good decisions and to be holistic in our approach.”

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