Indiana democrats have created a new political and civic leadership program, Hoosier Women Forward (HWF), designed to inspire and prepare local women for positions of leadership in public service.
“Our mission is to increase the number of Democratic women in elected and appointed government positions at the state, local, and federal levels and in positions of influence in the private sector,” says Liane Hulka, HWF board chair. “We need women leaders in corporations. We need women leaders at local boards and commissions. We need women at the table in every room in the State of Indiana, not just running for office.”
The program aims to find a diverse group of participants by calling on women of different backgrounds from across the state. While it’s still being built, the goal is to have the group collaborate and network with each other as they enter politics. The program will also include subjects such as Indiana political history, becoming an advocate, and improving communication skills.
“This is a program for women who have already established themselves as leaders in their workplaces or communities that just want to take that leadership to the next level and translate it into public service leadership in some way,” Hulka explains.
According to the 2016 United States Census Bureau, women represent over half of Indiana voters. Yet women make up less than 20 percent of Indiana’s congressional delegation and state general assembly. Of 55 democratic Indiana mayors, only two are women.
“You’ve got [political] issues that directly affect families, and women, and economic development, jobs, all these things that are happening in the state and in the country,” says Marya Rose, HWF board member. “And yet women’s voices are not being heard. We thought that it was really important that we create a way for women to be effective in having their voices heard.”
Rose mentioned Michelle Obama’s recent visit to Indianapolis, saying the energy in the room was unbelievable.
“You have this energy of these women who are committed and interested. We want to just harness that energy and figure out how we can make Indiana a better state with it, which would make the United States better,” says Rose. “When I see women excited about engaging in political discourse, it convinces me that the time is right for us to do this.”
“Women, we can do a heck of a job,” says state Rep. Cherrish Pryor. “We certainly have the leadership skills and ability to do anything we put our minds to.”
HWF emphasizes that you don’t have to run for public office to get involved. Women who aren’t interested in running for office can make an impact by becoming precinct committee members, volunteering, and assisting on campaigns. They can also get involved with local grassroots organizations and serve on boards and commissions.
“We need more women at the table to have a voice, to have that diversity of opinion that’s not going to be there if we’re not at the table putting our issues out in the forefront,” Pryor says. “Our voice is silent if we’re not a part of the process.”
The application for the inaugural HWF class will be available in May. A kick-off event will take place on April 12 at Indiana Landmarks. To learn more about the organization and learn how to get involved, visit Hoosier Women Forward's website.