Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership

//Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership
Gillian Rosenberg Armour

Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership: Changing the Face of Power in Illinois

At the Democratic National Convention in 2000, led by Loretta Durbin, a number of Illinois’ leading Democratic women decided to launch a program to train women to run for office. The way to get more women in Congress, they reasoned, is to get more women into local, county and statewide office. Thus was born the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (IWIL), an endeavor that is changing the landscape in Illinois – for Democrats, for women and the people of Illinois. IWIL selects around a dozen women a year to participate in a candidate training program. IWIL is a year-long program that consists of six multi-day sessions. The curriculum includes advanced Fundraising skills (with practice and coaching), leadership development, public speaking, media training, voter contact training and targeting, direct mail strategy and polling tactics among many other skills. IWIL provides a thorough understanding of Illinois politics with extensive sessions on the history of the Labor Movement and current issues facing the State of IL. Participants meet with industry leaders and prominent elected officials. The class meets in Chicago, Springfield, Southern Illinois and Washington, DC.

Since its inception, 165 women have gone through the program, 81 IWIL Alumnae have run for office and 39 have won their elections. IWIL Alumnae include Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (17th Dist), State Representatives Litesa Wallace and Laura Fine, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Commissioners Debra Shore and Kari Steele and dozens of members of County Boards, City Councils, Local School Boards and Township elected officials.

IWIL gave me the tools and confidence to run for office, “ said Board President and 2003 alumna Debra Shore. “IWIL is building a network of women throughout the state who can help each other whenever one of us runs for office. It’s powerful; it’s necessary; and it’s about time.”

Applications for next year’s class will be available in September 2016. For further information, visit or contact Executive Director Gillian Rosenberg Armour at