Former State Senate candidate Belinda Drake, former Indiana State Representative Christina Hale and Indiana State Senator Shelli Yoder spoke about the importance of running for government office and having more diverse representation in government at a virtual panel Monday night. The event was organized by Women in Government at IU to coincide with International Women’s Day.
In response to a question from WIG at IU co-President Macy Brammer regarding policy issues, Drake, who ran for Indiana State Senate District 32 in 2020, said she is passionate about advocating for the need for an inclusive hate crimes bill and equal pay for women.
“That is an issue that not only affects women but it more drastically affects women of color and more specifically Black women,” she said. “Equal pay is something that is really important to me and in the communities I represent.”
Drake is a millennial and a Black woman who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and she said she represents all of these communities in her positions of leadership.
Yoder said she focuses on the issue of the high expense of childcare, an issue which disproportionately affects women because many single mothers can’t afford to keep their kids in childcare on their income.
“It’s not that we don’t want to be caring for our children,” she said, “but it is coming at a sacrifice at the expense of those who may want to stay with their jobs, their careers.”
This past legislative session, Yoder authored separate bills which would make it illegal for employers to ask for wage history, establish a child and dependent care tax credit and provide payments for employees who take family and medical leave. None of them got a hearing or were read for a second time by the Indiana Senate.
Hale said she is passionate about making sure elected officials represent the communities they are serving by both running for office herself and encouraging other people in different communities to run. The U.S. has been led by a group of homogenous, white men for too long, she said.
“They have not lived through the kinds of challenges that so many women throughout the ages have had to live through,” Hale said. “The world moves forward because women are strong and because we push for positive changes that benefit people.”
Hale said it is also important to have more people of color in elected positions to create a society which respects all human rights.
Drake said in order to affect policy and create a more diverse group of representatives, women need to step up and run for positions in government.
“I always encourage any group of young people I speak to to take accountability, take ownership of creating that future that you want to see,” she said to the women attending the panel. “No one’s coming to save us. It is going to be women that get this country back to where it needs to be.”
Drake said this is what International Women’s Day is about — working harder to include more voices in conversations to bring about change.
Hale said International Women’s Day is about women supporting each other. She said women face so many challenges including unequal pay and sexist working environments, so they need to focus on celebrating each other's success instead of feeding into feelings of jealousy.
“We’ve all felt it, when somebody else is successful, even somebody you love with all your heart, and you just feel a little bit less,” she said. “We can outthink it, we can out-love it, we can out-feel it, we have to be aware of it and then we have to act to overcome it.”
Instead of focusing on how other women’s success makes them feel inferior, women should focus on how those successes can lead to more opportunities for women and other underrepresented populations in the future, Hale said. Women who experience success also need to make sure they are helping other women succeed and obtain positions of power, she said.