Written by Dawn Anderson, Rocko Jerome and Taylor Riley | Photographed on location at the Frazier History Museum by Kylene White | Styled by Christine Fellingham and Melissa Gagliardi | Hair and makeup by Sarah Allen, Kassandra Cazares Aldana, Kayla Greenwell, Breanna Peters and Michaela Reeves
The field narrowed from over 400 nominations to 89 nominees and finally to the 16 award winners you will meet on the following pages. Representing each of their categories with distinction, your 2023 Most Admired Women bring humility, grace and a great capacity for change to their roles as leaders in our community. We asked each of them to reflect on how they got to this moment, what your votes and this award means to them and where their journeys might take them from here.
With her win in the Public Service category, Gretchen Hunt, Director of Louisville Metro Government’s Office for Women (OFW), is looking forward to added visibility for the issues and programs to which her team is so devoted. “This is a terrific opportunity to elevate the need to support and invest in women, making gender equity the norm in Louisville,” Gretchen says. “It is a platform to engage women and others to work in collaboration for gender equity, and motivation to work hard.”
Louisville Metro’s OFW (louisville.ky.gov/government/office-women) was developed over thirty years ago to advance the status of women in the community through education, advocacy, and legislation. Their broad focus includes gender-based violence, human trafficking, social and economic well-being, housing, education, civic engagement, and autonomy. Gretchen feels most gratified to have recently launched their inaugural ambassador program “to convene a space for women and gender-diverse individuals to envision the Louisville we want.” Twenty-four women began meeting in January to kick off a six-month program exploring the issues, proposing solutions, and serving as community-to-government liaisons.
For all the positive forward motion, Gretchen’s work has not been without its significant obstacles. “Times are challenging for women and gender equity. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Black and immigrant women,” she says. “Transgender people are being targeted with punitive legislation. The return to work raises issues of affordable childcare. All this is in addition to systemic injustices of racism and poverty. We try to connect the dots between these issues and to highlight and amplify the voices of women working on these issues in the community.”
Twenty-three years ago, Gretchen worked as an immigration attorney for the Center for Women and Families. Since then she has served the Kentucky Attorney General as Director of the Office of Victim Advocacy and as a staff attorney for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP). Gretchen worked with Governor Beshear’s office to resolve the state’s rape kit backlog, taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville and Brandeis School of Law, and is a former Executive Director of Emerge Kentucky. “I am exactly where I need to be at this moment in my journey,” she says, “bringing pieces and lessons learned in various positions and weaving them together. I couldn’t have envisioned this, but it feels like home.”
Gretchen credits her mother as her greatest teacher in how to serve people and build community. “There are moments in our work or our lives when things click,” she says. “For me, that occurs working in collaboration with others.” She is also inspired by women like Hiphop N2 Learning Co-Founder and Hip Hop Based Educator Nyree Clayton-Taylor and Karina Barillas who founded La Casita Center, a local grassroots nonprofit supporting Latinx families and essentially creating a movement for Latina women in the community.
“Awards validate the importance of working together as a network of women,” says Gretchen. That network includes people who paved the way for the work, students she has mentored, and current OFW ambassadors. “I am inspired by people who are creative and brave in their work, and do it with joy,” says Gretchen. “Now it is important to us to seek justice in ways that are beautiful, joyful, and energizing.”
At 48, Gretchen is thinking of her career in terms of legacy, trying to build great networks of power and women in the community: “We have a collective, shared responsibility to achieve gender equality across governments and communities. In every agency and department, working on issues for women should be the norm.” — Dawn Anderson