Women make up Pa.’s political minority, say gender isn’t issue

By Tom Fontaine

Women make up about half of the population but remain grossly under-represented in key political offices that shape policy and render legal decisions at the federal, state and local levels, said politicians and political experts.

“It’s been a slow climb here,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, which is hosting a campaign-training seminar for women in Shadyside on Saturday and another one in Philadelphia next month.

Last year’s seminar in Pittsburgh drew about 80 women.

Women hold one of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats and 17 percent of the seats in the state Legislature. One of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices and nine of its 60 Common Pleas president judges are women.

About 38 percent of countywide offices in the 10-county area surrounding Pittsburgh are held by women.

A woman has never represented Pennsylvania as a U.S. senator or governor. Democrat Kathleen Kane in 2012 became the first woman elected state attorney general.

Brown said she thinks 2014 could be a ground-breaking year for Pennsylvania women in politics, noting three are running for governor on the Democratic ticket and at least three of the state’s congressional races could be in play for women, including one featuring New Kensington’s Erin McClelland in the newly constituted 12th District that includes Beaver County and parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Washington counties.

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