Scanlan is chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, a nonpartisan coalition of over 200 progressive women’s groups working together through policy work and grass roots activism to address issues of concern to women. This 12 million member network focuses on workplace and economic equity, education and job training, affirmative action, Social Security, child care, reproductive freedom, health, and global progress for women's equality. Scanlan also serves as president of the Women’s Research & Education Institute (WREI), which provides timely data and policy analysis to the women and men in the U.S. Congress. Among WREI’s one-of-a-kind programs are the Congressional Fellowships on Women & Public Policy and the Women in the Military project.
While serving on the staff of Rep. Charles H. Wilson (1972 -77), Scanlan coauthored legislation to create Women’s History Month and to admit women to the U.S. military service academies. In 1977, Scanlan helped found the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, a bipartisan group of the then-18 women serving in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Sweet Briar College, Scanlan holds a master’s in modern languages from Tulane University. She serves on the board of the National Women’s History Museum.