Elise Shrock: Organization makes good on powering state forward

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When I stood in the atrium of the Indiana Statehouse in 2018 alongside many of our state’s trailblazers, ready to announce the launch of Hoosier Women Forward, I had to pinch myself.

Up to that point, I had had the great fortune of being mentored by leaders in our state like Betty Cockrum, Sen. Vi Simpson and Rep. Cherrish Pryor. Now, I stood on a stage with them as a contemporary to launch a new era for Democratic women in Indiana. If I thought that day was incredible, I’d soon find that the work ahead would be even more fulfilling. And aptly timed.

As a founding board member, I’ve watched Hoosier Women Forward launch its civic leadership training program and emerge as a political force across our state, empowering Democratic women to take active roles in their communities and building out a network that has become both a safe haven and a stronghold.

That duality is precisely what makes Hoosier Women Forward so potent. We are not just entering the arena as is, we are creating a space that encourages women to imagine an entirely new arena. From hospitality to the not-for-profit sector, within the medical community and many other industries, our alumnae bind together the women in our state through shared, democratic values. We’re transforming the way women engage in our political systems.

Since 2018, we have had over 30 women file to run for office. These are women who, through our 10-month programming, have learned not just how to navigate party politics and government but also how to engage effectively with the media, use their digital resources and build consensus with those who share different perspectives. They have gained access to statewide movers and shakers across many sectors.

Our alumnae now include 89 women who continue to build out creative collaborations with each new class that graduates. In one day alone this summer, you could have met:

◗ any one of our 15 candidates for office canvassing their neighborhoods or the alumnae working on their campaigns;

◗ Ashley Brooks (Class 2) hosting the brunch food festival Baby Got Brunch to benefit The Milk Bank, which is led by Freedom Kolb (Class 4);

◗ Cara Berg Raunick (Class 1), who produced a musical that raised over $60,000 for All-Options Hoosier Abortion Fund.

Within our ranks, we also have 20 alumnae and class members who are elected officials in the trenches fighting to lift up policies that protect Hoosier families and, most recently, to push back against laws like Senate Enrolled Act 1 that make it less safe to live in Indiana.

Our network is growing, our alumnae are winning, and at our Sept. 28 luncheon, we’ll also celebrate the inaugural recipient of the Betty Cockrum Leadership award to honor one of our hardest-working Hoosier women and to recommit ourselves to the work at hand. Join us for lunch and get to know Class 5 and see for yourself the impact we’re making.

We are leading women forward and doing exactly what we said we would do from the day we launched our program in the halls of the Statehouse. We’re equipping women to fill elected offices, boardrooms and corner offices, and we’re building a legion of women across the state who are acutely tuned into the policies that come out of our Statehouse and are ready to hold policymakers accountable.•


Shrock is a local communications professional and policy advocate whose work intersects in the areas of spirituality, women’s empowerment and Hispanic affairs. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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