The Illinois Women's Institute for Leadership
by Loretta Durbin
In 2000 I started a conversation at the Democratic National Convention with other women leaders about how we need to create a place and program to help elect more women to political office in Illinois. The Illinois Women's Institute for Leadership (IWIL). IWIL is one of only a handful of groups around the country dedicated to ensuring that women seeking political office get the full range of training and experience - and most importantly, the confidence - they need to compete effectively in elections.
In 2002, we launched IWIL with our inaugural class. In just over a decade, IWIL has trained more than 136 women and 45 have won their races for local, state, or federal office. High profile IWIL alums include both Debra Shore and Kari Steele, both Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commission, State Representatives Laura Fine and Litesa Wallace, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.
Unfortunately, the percentage of women elected to public office is declining in our country. Fewer women actually hold statewide office now than in years past. According to the first-ever survey of political aspirations among 18- to 25-year-olds, women still lag far behind men in contemplating a run for elective office. Researchers have discovered, that the difference is having up-close experiences with the political process - the types of experiences that IWIL provides. IWIL offers our "delegates" a year of training in areas including leadership skills development, public speaking, media training, voter contact training and training from policy experts. We also provide a thorough understanding of Illinois politics and extensive sessions on the role the labor movement plays in politics. Our classes meet with elected officials at all levels of government who have met with the delegates to share their perspectives on the promise and challenges of running for office.
The deadline to apply for the IWIL Class of 2015 is October 31st. For more information on IWIL or to apply for IWIL, you can visit http://iwilinfo.org/application/
About Loretta Durbin