Washington's Top Power Couples
page 4 of 7
John Shakow & Susannah Wellford Shakow
For John and Susannah Wellford Shakow, everything is about numbers. As cofounder of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, Susannah works to right the political gender disparity by helping more women get elected into office. She is also chairman of the board for Running Start, a program that encourages young women to go into government. John is an expert in pharmaceutical governmental price reporting as a partner at FDA & Life Sciences Practice in the DC offices of King & Spalding; his job is to explain to pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturers the complicated math behind the rights and obligations under Medicaid and Medicare, which one associate compared in its complexity to the "organic chemistry of law."
"I was a failed litigator but had done some cases that involved the prices drug companies set," says John. "I thought, Here's an opportunity to grab a niche that only a dozen people can do in the entire country. I invested a lot of time and energy in becoming an expert in these things. It paid off because the government makes it more complicated each year, which is good for business."
John and Susannah are both native Washingtonians, but the two did not meet until the week of Clinton's first inauguration, over a gutted and broiled alligator, a Louisiana delicacy prepared in honor of James Carville, at the time John's boss. "The Clintons had that huge outdoor party on the Mall, and I lost all of the people I was with," says Susannah. "A girl I'd met had also lost her people, so I pretended to be her friend, Elaine, and went to the party that James Carville was throwing. That's where I met John."
Before John convinced her to go to law school, Susannah worked for Hillary Clinton's Task Force on National Health Care Reform, and it was during those years that the lack of women in the room finally hit a nerve. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, Susannah knew that to increase the number of women in politics, she would have to get them while they were young. Running Start began in 2007 and today includes programs in DC, Los Angeles, New York, and beyond; Susannah also lectures internationally, in countries that have included Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Israel. "Most of [the people I lecture to] have never been exposed to this before, and no one talks to them about empowerment. But the idea of it is changing their dreams for the future."
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIP DAWKINS
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.