It’s hard to get away from politics these days. Even business groups like the National Association of Women Business Owners has its eye on the White House and its beauty pageant-loving occupant.

Among the many communities that will be carefully surveying, scrutinizing, and probing President Donald Trump’s policy are women business owners. During his campaign, Trump professed his support for women business owners, pointing to his encouragement of daughter Ivanka Trump’s career. In line with these promises, on February 13, Ivanka Trump gathered female CEOs to meet with the president and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch the United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders.

However, degrading, sexist remarks made by Trump on the campaign trail, plus his comments about groping women caught on a hot microphone and revealed during the campaign, have led many to question the legitimacy of his commitment to aiding women.

NAWBO will continue to examine Trump’s engagement with the female business community and push his administration to remain dedicated to fighting for government policies that support female business owners, says Joy Lutes, NAWBO national vice president of external affairs. Lutes is hopeful that the president will not affect the way NAWBO interacts with the government.

“The good thing for NAWBO national is that we’ve had a genuine focus on being bipartisan. We’re willing to work with anyone on issues that affect our parties, so I don’t think we’ll change tactics,” Lutes says. “I did a lot of outreach and was in regular contact with both candidates’ campaigns, to make sure we have good relationships regardless of the political party.”

NAWBO is holding a retreat for women business owners in Central Jersey to discuss business growth strategies as well as public policy issues that will affect female business owners. “The overall theme is to show NAWBO members how to increase their visibility in a myriad of ways,” Lutes says. “The overall message of the retreat is finding ways to support each other.”

The retreat will take place Saturday, February 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Speakers include Lutes, Lorraine Duncan of Biz Gone Social, and Sabrina Teekah of Op-X Consulting Services. The retreat costs $125 for members and $149 nonmembers and takes place at the Crowne Plaza on Scudders Mill Road in Plainsboro. For more information, visit www.nawbocentraljersey.org.

The conference will cover public policy issues including access to capital, comprehensive tax reform, government contracting opportunities for women, pension reform, health care reform, and international trade.

“I’ll share whatever inside information I can share about the process and make sure members are aware of those public benefits they should be looking out for,” Lutes says.

Lutes first became interested in advocating for women business owners through her interest in constitutional law, issue advocacy, and influencing the political system. Lutes’ father was an accountant who went back to school and got his masters to be a special education teacher, and her mother was an HR specialist. Lutes, who grew up in southeastern Ohio, always had a fascination for politics and government operation.

“I loved this country and the hope and opportunity. I was constantly memorizing state capitals as a kid,” Lutes says.

After working on all sorts of political campaigns and later in a PR firm, Lutes became passionate about women’s advocacy.

“It’s really important for me for women to understand the power of their own voice, and leverage the connections they have to help each other,” Lutes says.

Lutes says that the biggest lesson she has to share from her experience in public advocacy is that anyone can use their background and expertise to influence the political system and create desirable policy solutions by lobbying politicians. She encourages female business owners to become aware of public policies issues at stake and make their voice heard in politics through grassroots activism.

“The biggest misnomer is the notion that I have some secret information to impart, and that advocacy is very difficult, and I have to help you memorize the tax code — the truth is that all of our [female business leaders] are valuable,” Lutes says. “Go with what you know and start with what you know, any good public servant is going to want to hear what you have to say.”

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