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The Budget Center communications team chatted with Hannah Orbach-Mandel (she/her), State Policy Fellow at the Budget Center, who conducts research and analysis on gender equity and supporting California workers.

This Q&A series is your chance to get to know our team, their areas of expertise, and how their work at the Budget Center supports policy change in California. In this conversation, we’ll explore Hannah’s efforts to advance policies that promote equitable working conditions for all workers and improve the lives of California women and families.

This interview was edited by Kat Petsalis, Communications Strategist at the Budget Center.

Can you tell us about your role at the Budget Center?

As a state policy fellow at the Budget Center, I primarily focus on addressing issues related to gender equity, labor policy, and their intersection. Over the past two years, I’ve worked on initiatives like paid sick leave, paid family leave, and the Women’s Well-Being Index. I also collaborate closely with Laura, Alissa, Monica, and Kayla on various projects and issues, such as unemployment insurance. Additionally, I’m looking forward to furthering our work in the domestic violence space, more specifically as it relates to health and housing.

Can you share more about your state policy fellowship and what inspired your interest?

My fellowship started as a bit of a pivot from my previous career path. I studied economics and math in college and was interested in sports business. My interactions with individuals at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), in addition to research on existing policies, sparked an interest to enhance their Title IX policies, especially in the context of college sports.

I recognized my growing passion for the work and was encouraged to explore a public policy graduate program, which led to me getting my master’s degree in public policy. In my job search, I discovered the fellowship program and was particularly drawn to the potential of working on gender-related issues. The Budget Center’s Women’s Well-Being Index further aligned with my interests and aspirations, and that’s how I was introduced to the work at the Budget Center.

What’s next after your fellowship ends?

I’m excited to share that I’ll be continuing my work here at the Budget Center as a policy analyst, and I’m happy to keep working on issues related to gender equity and labor. I’m particularly looking forward to diving into the development of the third version of the Women’s Well-Being Index, while also continuing the important work I’ve started in domestic violence policy. The knowledge and experiences I gained during my fellowship were invaluable, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to stay at the Budget Center and keep applying them to my work.

What reflections have you experienced generally, and within the realm of the gender equity work you’ve been involved in?

One takeaway has been my depth of learning and growth, specifically within the realm of state policy. Prior to my fellowship, I focused on federal policy throughout graduate school. However, diving into state policy and the dynamics of state-level policy work has been eye-opening. Witnessing firsthand the impact of advocacy efforts at the state level, like the successful passage of the paid sick leave bill, emphasized the potential for meaningful change.

Within the gender equity sphere, my perceptions of California being a leader in progress have been hit with the realization that significant challenges persist despite the state’s progressive reputation. While the state has made strides in areas like paid family leave and sick leave, there’s still so much more work to be done. This inspired me to look beyond California to see how other states are leading in gender equity initiatives, as I’ve recognized that progress is a continuous journey.

What is something exciting that you have recently worked on or currently working on?

I’m excited to expand the Budget Center’s focus on domestic violence policy, especially because this space is personally meaningful to me. Proposing domestic violence as a policy priority for our organization and subsequently working on our first publication in this area has been a rewarding experience. I’ve also appreciated collaborating with advocates to further develop this work. 

Another project that I’m excited about is my involvement in the Women’s Well-being Index. This project feels especially significant because it was a report that I referenced during my interviews at the Budget Center and now having the opportunity to contribute to it feels like a full-circle moment. Working on this project has provided me with valuable learning opportunities, and partnering with the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls for local outreach and speaking engagements adds another layer of excitement to this project. With the upcoming release of the updated Women’s Well-Being Index, particularly as the first edition since the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m eager to observe emerging trends and the impact of recent events on women’s well-being.

What is one thing that you can’t get through the workday without?

One thing I absolutely need to get through the workday is sunshine and being outside! Especially while working from home and spending hours in front of a screen, getting outside helps me stay focused and energized.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

I’m currently training for a triathlon, so a lot of my time is dedicated to swimming, biking, and running. I love doing it all with friends, which makes the experience even more enjoyable. As a passionate sports fan, I also love watching games, especially those involving the University of Michigan.

Media Contacts

Kyra Moeller
Communications Strategist

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