New initiative aims to prepare, propel Democratic women into public service

By Shelby Mullis

INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers, mayors and business leaders are joining forces to train Indiana’s next generation of Democratic female leaders.

Hoosier Women Forward, a group comprised of more than 20 statewide leaders, aims to prepare Democratic women for a future leadership position in office, the community or business. The group announced its initiative Thursday at the Indiana Statehouse, where only 30 females are represented in the 150-member General Assembly.

Chairwoman of Hoosier Women Forward, Liane Hulka, introduces members of the new group at a press conference Thursday. Photo by Zoie Richey,

“We want to harness the energy and talent that’s out there, all across Indiana, and create a powerful, diverse network of engaged Democratic women,” said Liane Hulka, the nonprofit’s board chair.

“Too often, women feel like their voices aren’t valued, whether it’s in the workplace or when the male-dominated Indiana General Assembly is deliberating women’s issues.”

Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson—one of two female mayors in the state—and Marya Rose, vice president and chief administrative officer of Cummins Inc., were just a few of the women to join Hulka in Thursday’s announcement.

Twenty to 25 women will be selected each year to participate in a nine-month leadership training program. Applications for the first course will be available in May, and selected participants will be named in August.

Elise Shrock, 32, has spent the last decade advocating for women’s rights. While Hulka said Shrock embodies the qualities the group is looking for in its applicants, Shrock will instead serve on the board of directors.

“What really excites me about this is there’s never really been a strong infrastructure for how we can take people like myself and other women who are the network of doers,” Shrock said, “people who are just organically there to make things happen and channel them into a support network.”

Shelby Mullis is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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