Women's Policy Institute - State : Apply
What We Do
Women's Policy Institute

WPI-State is a policy advocacy and leadership training fellowship for genderqueer and non-binary people, cisgender and transgender women, and transgender men who want to build their skills to influence public policymaking at the state level.*

*The term ‘cisgender’ describes someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. The term ‘transgender’ describes someone whose gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth.

Key Dates

Application Opens


Application Deadline




  • Genderqueer and non-binary people, cisgender and transgender women, and transgender men.
  • Individuals living or working inCalifornia.
  • Individuals working in a community-based or non-profit setting with the full support of their employer and/or supervisor.
  • Individuals who agree to all participation requirements and whose employers agree to all participation requirements.
  • If you are currently unemployed or self-employed, please review the FAQs and email us to discuss your eligibility.


  • Depth of Issue Expertise
  • Teamwork
  • Commitment to Policy Advocacy Work
  • Organizational Support
  • Commitment to Building Capacity
  • Time Availability


WPI-State will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to address the harmful and oppressive impacts that the criminal justice system has on the lives of Californians, especially those impacted by gender injustice. We prioritize fellows from organizations that work to promote racial and economic justice. In this context, criminal justice policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

    • Working to reduce the prison population and the numbers of incarcerated transgender people as well as cisgender women in the short- and long-term through prevention, ending jail expansion, and promoting alternatives to incarceration
    • Addressing the causes and reduce the incidence and impact of the disproportionate incarceration of Black people and people of color
    • Protecting the human and civil rights of incarcerated people
    • Expanding and strengthening rehabilitation and reentry programs for currently and formerly incarcerated people
    • Protecting and supporting the children and loved ones of incarcerated people
    • Expanding access to public programs and benefits for formerly incarcerated people

WPI-State will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work or support programs that improve the economic security of Californians, especially those impacted by gender injustice. This includes protecting low-wage and informal workers such as sex workers, advocating for the expansion and improved implementation of safety net programs, strengthening the diversity and size of the state workforce, and establishing standards for economic security. In this context, economic security policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

    • Boosting funding for and access to quality childcare
    • Improving enrollment and alignment in health and anti-poverty programs
    • Facilitating access to occupational jobs for low-skilled, low-income cisgender and transgender women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and transgender men
    • Strengthening workforce development programs focused on job placement, retention and advancement
    • Expanding work readiness training or improving access to education, vocational and training services including basic skills training, computer literacy, and life skills training and in languages other than English
    • Strengthening labor laws for people working in industries with fewer protections.

WPI-State will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to create places where families and communities are healthy, safe as is possible within our current systems, and ready to learn. We believe that health includes more than physical conditions; health has social, cultural and economic impacts on the well-being of individuals, families and/or communities. Health is also determined by racial, gender and economic circumstances, with direct ties to the history of anti-Blackness and oppression in our country. In this context, community health policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

    • Access to health care/patients’ rights: expanding access (e.g. Affordable Care Act/Health Reform) to quality health care; ensuring patient autonomy over decision- making; affordability/parity of coverage of treatments/medications; medical privacy
    • Environmental Health: air quality regulation, access to clean drinking water, climate change mitigation for low-income communities
    • Community Health: land use/transportation, school health, access to housing, food access/food marketing 
    • Healthy Youth Development: violence prevention, school push-out policies, school- based health/mental health, trauma-informed services
    • Health Equity: cultural and linguistic competency in healthcare; shifting resources to food deserts

WPI-State will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to support programs that expand and protect the rights of all people to make informed decisions about and exercise control over their sexual and reproductive lives. Reproductive health, rights, and justice policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

    • Promoting policies that are shaped by and responsive to people’s needs and address the right to bear and parent children
    • Access to safe and legal abortion
    • Comprehensive sexuality education
    • Universal health care
    • The right to bodily integrity, especially for incarcerated people and BIPOC 
    • The right to express one’s sexuality, sexual orientation/identity, and gender identity/expression
    • The right to a doula or midwife services
    • Intersectional ties with other social justice efforts, including the reproductive health impacts of environmental pollution, the state violence impact on parenting people, and the economic security of youth and families

WPI-State will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to reduce the negative impacts that violence and harassment, which is often gender-based, has on the lives of Californians. In this context, policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

    • Expanding resources for sexual assault survivors on college campuses
    • Improving protections for victims of online sexual harassment and cyber-stalking
    • Protecting the rights of trans people who experience bullying and harassment in the workplace
    • Strengthening the rights of immigrant cisgender and transgender women and nonbinary people who experience domestic violence
    • Increasing outreach and education to reduce teen dating violence
    • Strengthening existing law and policies that are intended to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or bullying


Like many organizations and programs, the WPI has had to make dramatic changes to ensure the safety and health of our fellows. WPI-State has shifted to a virtual platform since March 2020 and will continue to be virtual until it is safe to gather in large groups. All of our retreats & webinars will be hosted on Zoom until further notice. Moreover, the pandemic has had a significant impact on policy making at all levels, both in regards to the process and the landscape of what is possible. We anticipate that as the pandemic continues, we will see more shifts in priorities and the legislative process to adapt to current circumstances, which will require WPI-State to be even more flexible.

The fellowship is offered free of charge. The Women’s Foundation California is committed to eliminating all financial barriers to access and we raise approximately $20,000 for each fellow’s participation in the program. In a typical WPI year, we provide stipends and reimbursements for in person retreats if a fellow’s organization does not have available funding for travel and meals (which is the case for the majority of our fellows).  

The short answer is that you are eligible to apply for WPI as long as

  1. You are rooted in a community that will benefit (i.e., grow in its ability to do policy work) from your participation in the program and to which you are accountable
  2. You are connected to a non-profit or grassroots organization that endorses your participation, and
  3. Your employment status will remain the same throughout the WPI fellowship year.

The long answer is that our model is to invest in the capacity of organizations and communities, not individuals, for engaging in policy advocacy. We do this because

  1. Strong organizations and coalitions should be the driving forces behind public policy advocacy;
  2. We believe that more non-profit and community-based organizations should employ policy advocacy as one of their strategies for social change; and
  3. It would be impossible and impractical to attempt to train every single potential individual policy advocate in California, as our impact increases exponentially if our fellows are taking their training back to their organizations and communities.

Moreover, a change in employment status could impact your ability to stay in the WPI program (i.e., your new organization won’t allow you to stay in the program, you move out of state, etc.). If you do not plan to remain self-employed or you are actively looking for work during the WPI fellowship year, this might not be the right time to participate in WPI. Teams suffer when they lose a member halfway through the program, so it’s important for us to know with a fair degree of certainty that your employer is supportive of your participation and that you plan on being with that employer throughout the WPI year.

We know that COVID-19 has resulted in unpredictable employment for the majority of people in addition to a limited capacity for most individuals and their organizations. Ultimately, you know your own circumstances best, and you are the person who is best equipped to decide whether this is the right time for you to apply. If you choose to apply, please make sure to read the application instructions for a clearer understanding of the time commitment and expectations.

If you will graduate before or during the WPI-State fellowship year and are planning to search for and start a new job, please see the answer to question #3 above. Unless you are certain that your job will be supportive of your participation in WPI-State, this may not be the right time for you to apply.

If you will not be graduating before or during the WPI-State fellowship year, we encourage you to review the retreat and webinar dates and determine whether you will be able to miss class on those days. You may want to speak with an advisor or the chair of your department about whether they can support your full participation in the program, including missing classes and whether retreats fall too close to finals week, etc. If counting your participation in the program as an internship would help secure your time away from classes, please explore that option with your department. We are happy to be supportive of that approach in any way we can.

If you are aware of other applicants in your issue area with whom you would like to be placed on a team if you are both accepted into the program, you will be given the opportunity in the application to list those individuals.

As a general rule, we look for applicants who hold deep issue area expertise and are also willing to work on an issue that might not be a priority for them or their organization/community, or an issue that might not be their primary interest. The reason for this is that our objective is not to get a policy win—it is to teach you the legislative process so that once you graduate, you will know what it takes to get a policy win and you can focus on your specific issue. For this reason, while we encourage teams to pick policy projects that are meaningful to them, we also encourage them to pick policy projects that are moveable for first-time advocates. 

That said, we recognize that our issue areas are broad and that there are countless different subtopics and problems impacting our communities within those issue areas (for example, education as it relates to “Economic Security,” or environmental justice as it relates to “Community Health”). If that’s the case for you, we strongly encourage you to urge as many other people within your field to apply as possible—that way, we are more likely to be able to put together a team of five people interested in working on that particular  subtopic.

WPI-State interviews typically begin two weeks after the submission deadline.

WPI-State interviews are conversational. We ask questions that help us better understand your interests within the issue area under which you applied, your experience with policy advocacy, your reasons for wanting to participate in WPI-State, your organization’s relationship to policy advocacy, and the degree to which your organization supports your participation in the program. A good way to prepare is to review your Individual Narrative as well as the selection criteria and participant requirements.

No, we don’t necessarily interview everyone before selecting them for the program. Please continue to hold the retreat and webinar dates on your calendar until a final determination on your application is made.

First, please keep in mind that our final decisions are based both on individual merit and the overall “fit” of the five people who we have selected for a team. We often receive strong applications from leaders who we would love to admit to the program, but who are not a good fit in the year they applied due to the nature of their interests relative to the rest of the applicant pool, their having recently started a new job, their being in the process of looking for a new job, or other reasons.

Applicants who articulate clear personal and professional reasons for wanting to learn policy advocacy, make a strong case for organizational support, exhibit deep issue area expertise, and are rooted in the community they hope to serve are always strong candidates for the program. If you have any interest or experience working in other issue areas, please mention that in your application as well—we often consider applicants for teams in issue areas other than the one under which they applied. Good luck!

This work is powered by you.

The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

Together We Are Unstoppable.

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