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The Top Women-Owned Influence Shops

December 29, 2011
Everybody loves a year-end list. But instead of the traditional year in review, we decided to look at some of the top women-owned lobbying and public affairs firms in town.

In a wholly unscientific survey, we called around to some of the queens of K Street to get a bead on the most respected, and buzzed about, firms. So, in no particular order, here are the top vote getters and, if they are lobbying shops, their income so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics:

Point Blank Public Affairs: Amy Weiss and Debra DeShong Reed
Kountoupes Consulting ($1,965,000): Lisa Kountoupes
LHD & Associates ($895,000): Linda Daschle
Nueva Vista Group ($2,500,000): Irene Bueno and Maria Echaveste
Venn Strategies ($2,880,000): Stephanie Silverman
Heather Podesta & Partners ($5,020,000): Heather Podesta
TwinLogic Strategies ($832,000): Elizabeth Frazee and Sharon Ringley
Glen Echo Group: Maura Corbett
Tarplin, Downs & Young ($3,230,000): Linda Tarplin, Raissa Downs and Jennifer Young
Hart Health Strategies ($1,830,000): Vicki Hart
Missy Edwards Strategies ($300,000): Missy Edwards
**Avenue Solutions ($2,180,000): Tracy Spicer and Amy Tejral
APCO Worldwide, 56 percent of which is owned by women, according to its website. ($1,620,000): Margery Kraus


Most women we interviewed couldn't think of more than a handful of women-owned firms, but said they didn't face additional obstacles starting a business because of their gender.

"For me it was a natural progression of my professional development," said Lisa Kountoupes of Kountoupes Consulting. "Washington is a great place for working women."

One reason for the lack of women-owned shops is that top lobbying and public affairs firms are generally started by former government officials, said Amy Weiss of Point Blank. It was only recently that women broke into senior government positions and transitioned that experience into the private sector.

Weiss and others said that there are also many women who act as independent consultants instead of owning their own shops, in part because it is easier to balance work and family.

Several women pointed to Anne Wexler, who started what is now Wexler & Walker and died in 2009, as an inspiration and influence. Heather Podesta called her a "mentor to many of us."

A new crop of women-owned and operated shops also shows the lobbying and influence world is changing, they said.

"There are going to be more of us, and I think there are more of us than there used to be," said Maura Corbett of Glen Echo Group.

So what do you think? Who did we miss?

**UPDATED: An addition suggested by a reader.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Penny Lee as an additional owner of Venn Strategies. She is the president of the company and a principal, but not the owner.
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