A group of Democratic women political and business leaders announced the creation Thursday of a program aimed at getting more Democratic women into positions of power throughout the state.
The initiative is called Hoosier Women Forward, a nine-month long leadership training program that will work with 20 to 25 Indiana Democratic women each year.
Board chair Liane Hulka says the program is a response to what she and others see as a lack of influence and value placed on women and their views.
“Whether it’s in the workplace or when the General Assembly is deciding what issues to discuss and what programs to fund,” Hulka says. “But you need not look further than the Me Too movement to see how powerful women’s voices can be for change.”
Indiana is one of 23 states that has never had a woman governor. Just 30 out of 150 lawmakers in the General Assembly are women. And only two of the state’s 55 Democratic mayors are women.
Hulka says she was personally prompted to help start the program by the election of President Donald Trump.
“I always [thought] that things are being worked on and that somebody else is going to take the initiative on doing some things that you think need to be done,” Hulka says. “And I learned not to always make those assumptions and not to ask for permission.”
The Hoosier Women Forward board includes several current and former state lawmakers, including Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson).
“We get talked about, we get talked over, we get talked behind,” Austin says. “But we need to have a seat at the table and the only way we’re going to do that is by electing more Democratic women to elected office.”
Community activist Elise Shrock will be part of the program’s inaugural class.
“Our voices, our experiences, our stories are not only underrepresented but they’re needed in legislative bodies, they’re needed in boardrooms, they’re needed in corner offices across our state,” Shrock says.
The group’s board also includes business leaders, including Cummins Vice President Marya Rose and philanthropist Cindy Simon Skjodt.
Hulka says as the initiative was developed, her group consulted with some of the founders of the Lugar Series, a highly successful Republican leadership training program for women.