Initiative to prepare Democratic women for public service

Scott L. Miley | CNHI News IndianaLiane Hulka, left, announces the Hoosier Women Forward effort to bring more Democratic women into public service. Joining her are, from left, State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson; Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; community activist Elise Shrock, and Cummins Inc. Vice President Marya Rose.

INDIANAPOLIS — Liane Hulka was frustrated after the November 2016 election, as were many Democratic women, with the Republican sweep of offices.

The election results led her to talk with friends and colleagues about ways to prepare Democratic women for public service and active roles in their communities.

"From a personal standpoint, the genesis of it was probably the election of Donald Trump and waking up the next morning and asking myself what could be done, what can I do," Hulka said.

"I knew that we needed a leadership training program for Democratic women in the state of Indiana but I knew I couldn't do it myself," she said.

This week, Hulka was among a group of women announcing the creation of Hoosier Women Forward, a leadership program attempting to propel Democrats into service across Indiana.

Joining her were current and past elected officials including State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, and Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, who both serve on the group's board of directors.

Each year, 20 to 25 women will be selected to participate in a nine-month leadership program focusing on public policy and advocacy. Funding for Hoosier Women Forward, a 527 non-profit political organization, comes through donations.

The initiative is not a candidate training program, said Marya Rose, vice president at Cummins Inc.

"We want our women to understand there are other ways to serve the public good than just running for office," Rose said.

The group cited that two of 55 Indiana Democratic mayors are women; of 150 Indiana General Assembly legislators, 30 are women, although women account for more than 50 percent of the state's population; two of 11 members of Indiana's congressional delegation are women, both Republicans.

"We're seeing women take leadership roles in so many other parts of our society, of our business, but I have to tell you, what we're not seeing at all for the most part and pretty consistently is the numbers of Democratic women being elected to serve not just in our highest offices at the federal and state level, but among the workhorse agency which is the Indiana General Assembly," Austin said.

To learn more about Hoosier Women Forward visit hoosierwomenforward.org.

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