Founder and State Board President
Diana Cihak is the owner of Upper Edge Consulting, a grant writing firm, but her passion is WomenElect (WEPac), a volunteer based organization she founded to make a positive change in our community.
Founded in 2009 by Cihak and Virginia Davies, WEPac is a political action committee that runs the WomenElect program, a four month leadership development program that prepares women to run for political office. The United States currently have approximately 20% representation by women in our various political offices, while women are 52% of the population. Women win at the same rates as men, but women do not say “yes” to running for office. In order to get to gender parity WEPac encourages more women to step up and run. The WomenElect program helps those women who are involved in their community be able to take the next step and enter the political arena.
They encourage participants to take the class 2-10 years before they decide on an office to run for, giving them the time to build their networks of support and gain political experience in that time. Because of that timeline it has taken a long time to show that the program is successful. Their first candidate ran for office in 2016 and their first win was in 2017. Since then they’ve had five candidates run, with three wins, proving that the program works – it just takes time.
She says it’s been very humbling to see the support in other communities to bring the program to the entire state. Four months is a long time to work with these women and prepare them, and they ask each facilitator to offer two classes a year! But Diana has had women in communities throughout New York dedicate their time and considerable talent to help other women enter the political arena through the WomenElect program. She is proud, humbled and deeply encouraged that WomenElect will be able to make a difference in our political system.
Diana is board president of the Advisory Council, Women’s Business Center at Canisius College; commission member of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women; and member of the Women’s Action Coalition (Women’s History Month planning committee).