Debra Ness


National Partnership for Women & Families

Washington, DC

Debra L. Ness is president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, an organization that works to improve the lives of women and families by achieving equality for all women. Debra believes that women do not live their lives in silos and she brings a holistic approach to the work of the National Partnership that recognizes the complexity of women’s lives. Debra is uniquely positioned at that the intersection of health, economic equity and reproductive rights with the understanding that together these issues are key to women’s ability to thrive and fully participate in all aspects of society. She is fearlessly leading the organization through a collaborative change process that aims to center the National Partnership’s work around women of color — with the thinking that we cannot create a better world without first helping those who are most oppressed by our current systems and institutions. She believes that achieving equity for all women is key to strong families, healthy communities and a better country.

Under her stewardship, the National Partnership, along with its partners and allies, has transformed the nation’s workplaces. Today, more than 30 jurisdictions have adopted laws that allow workers to earn paid sick days, hundreds of corporations and six states plus the District of Columbia have enacted paid family and medical leave programs, and dozens of states have adopted strong laws that prohibit and punish pregnancy discrimination.

Debra is an innovative and sought-after health policy strategist who has helped shape the programs that are making health care in this country more accessible and affordable. She has worked collaboratively with some of the most reputable health institutions to improve health outcomes and disparities by delivering better quality, more patient- and family-centered care. Through her leadership, the organization has worked to de-stigmatize abortion and to illustrate the inextricable connection between people’s economic prosperity and their ability to decide whether and when to start a family.

Debra serves on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) and co-chairs its Health Care Task Force. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). She is one of the first public members of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Board of Directors. She was appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to serve on the Guiding Committee of the Health Care Payment Learning & Action Network (HCPLAN).

Debra graduated summa cum laude from Drew University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. She received her Masters of Science from Columbia University School of Social Work. She worked in numerous capacities at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Prior to that she headed field operations for NARAL, where she worked to revitalize the organization’s grassroots political capability and affiliate network, before becoming its deputy director and helping transform the organization into a major force in electoral politics.

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