You Should Know… Sydney Levin-Epstein

Photo by Jared Foretek.

With record numbers of women seeking office, many are calling it the second “Year of the Woman.” But Sydney Levin-Epstein, 23, is trying to make Washington as welcoming as possible for the women behind the scenes as well.

The George Washington University graduate and Massachusetts native is a staffer for a Senate Democrat, but she also has plenty to do after hours with Jewish Women’s International as she works to make the Washington workplace easier for women to navigate.

What’s it like working in the Senate at this moment in time?

No two days are the same. It’s fun but it’s a constant roller coaster — emotionally, sometimes physically, intellectually. I say physically because I wish it was appropriate on LinkedIn to put “running in heels” as a skill. I’ve mastered it in many different shoes.

What are your responsibilities?

I work as a staff assistant, so I help keep the office running. I manage the phones, manage the interns and assist the foreign policy team. And we deal with constituents.

It seems like working for a Senate Democrat might be frustrating right now. Is that the case?

I think it’s a difficult time to be an American trying to understand what’s going on inside the Beltway. So I make a particular effort to ask friends and family at home what they’re talking about around the dinner table, what’s happening at town halls.

Why have you taken such an interest in professional development for women?

We’re not a system with an H.R. department. So much in D.C. is self-orchestrated, we have to figure out on our own, how do you negotiate your salary? How do you ask for a title raise? What do you do when you’re uncomfortable? Maybe it’s not a harassment situation but there’s just energy you don’t know how to deal with. Or if there’s a policy issue you want to get involved in, how do you do that?

Those who have the answers are the ones who’ve already done it, so by connecting junior women on the Hill with senior women on the Hill, we’re able to find a means of having those conversations.

Being an adult is awkward and weird, we all have different things to figure out.

How do you balance the organizations you’re involved in with your full-time work?

I think everyone should find something that they’re passionate about to do outside of the office. For sanity reasons, but also to sort of keep your heart balanced. When I first started working here full time, I was transitioning from interning and being a hostess and a nanny and balancing all of that. When I got more of a financial grounding, I found more time to explore — I hate to use the term extracurriculars — but they really are. I found organizations that really fit what I wanted.

Everything is about prioritizing and time management. I love my Google calendar so much … and my Outlook
calendar. It’s really a way of life.

Why do you think you were drawn to politics?

My mother is an attorney and she does a lot of family law. Seeing the way she was able to use the law to help people and help families stay together or find safe situations after domestic violence — that led me into a path of policy. I really wanted to explore the way the law can benefit others.

My mom was awesome. I look up to her so much. And she worked so hard. When I was young, she’d always be late picking me up and I’d say, “My mom’s in court.” I’d have teachers like, “Oh God what’s going on?”

When you’re truly just looking to unwind, what do you like doing in D.C.?

Turns out I also babysit. I still have other bills to pay. But I’ll go home to see family in Massachusetts, and I hang out with friends. I don’t think anyone moves to D.C. to make money or have a luxurious social life. I think living here means you’re joining a community of people who are here to do something. You’re here because you care about

Have a suggestion for a You Should Know profile? Candidates must be ages 21-40. Tell us what makes that person so interesting: [email protected]

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